1993-03-01 - Re: anonymity + untraceable digital money = potential problems

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From: pmetzger@shearson.com (Perry E. Metzger)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: e2cf24068b2a301694e25dfad9f7abf1c32d2a0687d4a19b4cae5274b2b616ab
Message ID: <9303012153.AA22065@maggie.shearson.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-01 22:27:15 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 1 Mar 93 14:27:15 PST

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From: pmetzger@shearson.com (Perry E. Metzger)
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 93 14:27:15 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: anonymity + untraceable digital money = potential problems
Message-ID: <9303012153.AA22065@maggie.shearson.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

> From: ALAN DORN HETZEL JR <dorn@indigo.mese.com>
> Dear Group,
> I believe that I see a potential serious problem with they onset of
> truly unbreakable anonymous communication combined with untraceable
> digital cash.
> The problem is that crimes such as blackmail and extortion would become
> absolutely impossible to defend against.  Kidnapping for ransome would
> get a LOT easier.

I see serious problems with allowing people to take drugs. They can
get addicted to them. Lets ban medicines.

I see serious problems with allowing people to own guns -- they might
commit crimes with them.

I see serious problems with allowing people to speak freely -- they might
blaspheme, or tell lies.

Mr Hetzel, I'm an anarchist. I have very little "faith" in human beings,
which means I don't trust big complicated structures run on the assumption
that human beings are inherently trustworthy -- like governments, for
example. I prefer systems that decentralize power and make it possible
for people to operate without the necessity to trust each other. Yes,
digital cash makes kidnapping easier. So, for that matter, do telephones
and cash itself -- had money never been invented, anonymous kidnapping
would have never been possible. However, the alternative to permitting
market structures to take care of problems in a competitive way is to
allow central structures in which we are asked to trust in the benificence
of government officials. I'm not the trusting type. If history has
had any lesson, it is that governments degenerate and are taken over
by evil men, over and over and over. The structures needed to stop
digital cash, anonymous postings, and the like would be so draconian as
to assure that should a dictator ever wish to sieze power the structures
needed to do so would be waiting for him. I'd prefer a system in which
he would have to build them from scratch, even if it means one or two
people can be blackmailed once in a while. Utopia isn't possible. I'd
prefer, therefore, to settle for the best we can do.

> I could send you an anonymous note threating to poison your dog, kill
> your wife, burn down your house, whatever..., ... unless you pay me
> $$$ in untraceable digital cash.  What can you do?

Today, I could send you an anonymous note threatening to poison your
dog if you don't leave $5000 in the poorbox at the corner church. What
can you do right now? Easy. Watch your dog. The police have a myriad
of techniques at their disposal. Their jobs have never been easy,
but they have to cope with anonymous messages and untraceable cash
thefts right now. To eliminate the capacity to use digital cash means
to require monitoring of all speech and ban most international traffic,
to prohibit strong cryptography and require key registration. Even then
I'm not convinced that it would work because people would still try to
avoid these restrictions.

All technologies are fraught with dangers. All of them. The knife you
use to slice your bread can be used to kill your wife. Shall we dispense
with knives? Shall we pretend that we can unlearn what we know? A bright
10 year old with a computer can produce a cypher machine. Shall we
lobotomize all ten year olds and destroy all the computers? You CANT put
some djinni back in the bottle after you've rubbed the first time. We
can't stop people from knowing things. At least the well meaning fools
who advocate gun control have the fact that good machine shops aren't
in practically every home on their side -- telephones, modems and computers
are becoming ubiquitous, however, and they are all capable of aiding
and abbetting in the criminal techniques you mention. Welcome to the world.

Perry Metzger