1993-03-25 - Re: Many Important Items in the News

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From: karn@qualcomm.com (Phil Karn)
To: tcmay@netcom.com
Message Hash: c9a9bfa736750486cef70f0b0a1f73cb5d2b0df00599988e45bcb82383086e09
Message ID: <9303250255.AA11589@servo>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-25 02:57:35 UTC
Raw Date: Wed, 24 Mar 93 18:57:35 PST

Raw message

From: karn@qualcomm.com (Phil Karn)
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 93 18:57:35 PST
To: tcmay@netcom.com
Subject: Re:  Many Important Items in the News
Message-ID: <9303250255.AA11589@servo>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

>(Cypherpunks remailers may want to change the "Nobody" and "Anonymous" tags
>to names that are less screenable, less susceptible to censorship by
>ARMM-type programs. Using a rotating list of fictional or historical names
>may be an approach, but I'm sure we can think of many ways to bypass
>ARMM-type cancellers.)

I'm not sure I like this idea. In my own discussions with people on
this issue, I've found that "filterability" (for lack of a better
term) overcomes *many* (if not all) of the standard objections to
anonymous email.

I see email anonymity as directly analogous to Caller-ID in the
telephone network. Historically, telephony and email have taken
competely opposite tacks on the caller privacy issue: telephone calls
have always been anonymous while the Internet has effectively had
"Caller ID" with no blocking.  Caller ID changes the former
assumption, while the anonymous remailer changes the latter.

A consensus seems to be emerging on Caller ID: it's a good thing,
*provided* there's a way to block it. In other words, the calling and
called parties must agree on whether or not the caller will identify
himself. If they don't agree, the call won't go through.

Because the Caller ID messages explicitly state when the caller's
number is blocked (as opposed to simply being unavailable for other
reasons), it would be straightforward to build a call filter box that
would disable your ringer and return an error message to any caller
that invokes caller ID blocking. ("I'm sorry, the number you have
reached will not accept anonymous calls. If you wish to reach this
party, please unblock caller ID and try your call again.")

I think this approach strikes an eminently reasonable balance between
the privacy interests of the two parties. Personally, I would not use
such a box unless I was actually having problems with anonymous crank
calls. But a single woman living alone might well feel differently.
The important thing is to let each individual make that decision for
him/herself, not to impose one policy on the entire world.

I think this is also exactly the right solution for email. The policy
for the Internet should be that anonymous email is perfectly okay as
long as it is clearly labeled as such. Then anyone who doesn't want to
receive it can automatically remove it from their incoming mail
without ever having to set eyes on it.

This allows anonymous email to flourish wherever the recipients
consent to receiving it, while it could not be used (for very long,
anyway) to harass a nonconsenting recipient.

More elaborate filters could be constructed that would accept
anonymous email only when it had been signed by certain specific RSA
keys. This would let consenting parties communicate by means of
pseudonyms, without having to open themselves up to anonymous
harassment from the entire net.

What do you think?