1993-04-19 - FWEE!: more on kiosks

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From: deltorto@aol.com
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 65c5d07fd3ebc24bc3a4b860dcb410370b788178cc6c2b725e1b6ae05c6cf74b
Message ID: <9304191342.tn35269@aol.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-04-19 17:43:57 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 19 Apr 93 10:43:57 PDT

Raw message

From: deltorto@aol.com
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 93 10:43:57 PDT
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: FWEE!: more on kiosks
Message-ID: <9304191342.tn35269@aol.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Yo Peoples,

Eric responded to my "Three Strikes" against public kiosks:

>>>[1] Strike One: Installation and maintenance costs (economics again). 
>>>[They are too high.]
>>I'm not talking about building a network of machines just for the
>>purpose of whistleblowing.  I'm talking about making interfaces to
>>existing systems.  In particular, the public machines at sfnet would
>>_also_ be interfaces to any whistleblowing system.  The incremental
>>cost is minimal; it's a small bit of software at the server.
>>>[2] Strike Two: Lack of Privacy while using the kiosks. 
>>There is a different kind of privacy in a public space than in private
>>space.  In a private space, everyone may know where you live, but
>>nobody knows what goes on inside.  In a public space, everyone may see
>>what happens, but no one knows who you are.  Please consider these
>>approximations to reality.

In theory, I think it's not a dead idea, ie. there are possibilities here to
be explored, and yes it's basically a simple software addition to SF Net by a
remailer coder such as Eric. HOWEVER, having used the SF Net tables, I am a
bit dubious about their Privacy viability in their current state. I have had
bozos lean over my shoulder buggin me when I am having a "private"
conversation with someone, and I have even seen people _photograph_ someone
at the screen without their permission (amazing, huh?). IF there was a sort
of Passport PhotoBooth approach, it might mitigate such physical problems:
THEN the software end would become more feasible. Also, unless there is
encryption built into SF Net (made unlikely by the overhead?), I probably
wouldn't drive over from the Federal Building to log on and blow the whistle
on some blue-suited government weasel.

I still think that this is several stages away from being a useful idea UNTIL
we have a working model with anonymity and encryption working on USENET

>>In particular, since it is anonymity which is desired, a public place
>>is sufficient.
>>>I think Eric Hughes' argument (with due respects to Eric) about the
>>>expensive economics of monitoring the kiosks falls down just a tad
>>>when you consider that these would not even be _moving targets_!
>>The cost of placing a video camera to monitor a computer inside a
>>coffeehouse must also include the possibility of negative publicity
>>and lawsuit when such an emplacement is discovered.  Monitoring a
>>public place in advance of any "crime" being committed is _very_ bad
>>for job security and department funding.

Well, your point is taken Eric, but I still stress that video monitoring
would be trivial. First of all, if I was a three-letter agency, i SURE as
hell wouldn't go to the operators of say, Brainwash Cafe and ASK to put a
video cam up on the ceiling! I'd sneak in late one night and place a more
sophisticated (and extremely tiny) unit over the table where it couldn't
easily be found. Secondly, since when does the FBI worry about job security?
I think they could easily convince a federal judge that they had reason to
believe that government secrets might be leaked in public and get permission
to monitor "that subversive group known as the 'Whistleblowers' and _every
public terminal_ they've placed around SF." Maybe it's unlikely, but then so
was the notion that CREEP would break into the Watergate Towers and stick
bugs on McGovern's phones...

>>>[...] but any such defenses would pale in comparison with the Privacy
>>>inherent in the WB input from a single user's personal system.
>>I am also not talking about replacing the ability to post from home.
>>I am talking about expanding the number of entry points into the
>>distribution system.

I do understand this point, I'm just not totally convinced that public kiosks
are the best solution to this problem. I am open to suggestions along this
line, and I do think that it would at least be worth a test on SF Net.

>>The largest benefit for public-space access is that you can use this
>>if you don't have a computer at home.  You can also use it if you
>>don't have a computer at work.

Agree 100%. I don't intend to discriminate against people just because they
don't have a computer.

>>>have the feeling that they would be a PRIMARY contributor to the overall
>>>bullshit noise that would clutter up a decent WB systems and exponentially
>>>increase the difficulty of filtering out the "good" stuff for proper use.
>>A whistleblower system, by default, must be free of judgements about
>>what is "good" to be on it and what is "bad".  If someone thinks that
>>something ought to be brought to light, then I say let them speak, no
>>matter how trivial or inappropriate it might be.

Forgive my semantics. When I say "good" (note the quotes), I refer to useful
material that eventually produces the desired results. As far as the apparent
triviality of an item, that is entirely up to the users (ie. the Press,
Activist, or other operatives who "process" the information). As I have
stated, it is not up to us to preview anything, only to help make it more
likely that useful information from determined WB's with strategic info gets
to the right people who can do something about it. This is a tough one, I
admit. I believe that the key to this problem is part technology and part
psychology: make the system easy enough to use that as many potential
whistleblowers as possible will look at it, and just difficult enough so that
only the most determined will actually send in their information.

>>It is easy to ignore messages you don't want to consider.  It is much,
>>much harder to read messages that the author hesistates to write for
>>fear of reprisal.  A whistleblower system can tolerate more noise than
>>usenet, since the core content of it can be so extremely valuable.

A valid proposition. Keep in mind that part of the initial acceptance of the
system among the users will be a high signal-to-noise ratio (at least during
the early phases).

>>If there is only access to a whistleblowing system for those who own
>>computers or are provided access to them, then any such system will
>>remain only a tool of the wealthy.  You do not hear of abuses in labor
>>law from anybody but the employees; these employees do not have

Agree 95%.

>>Anybody who has NATIONAL SECRETS to tell is, I would guess, a fool to
>>post twice from a particular location.  Anybody who has anything
>>lengthy or digitally copied to say cannot easily use this system.
>>It's not conducive to digital signatures.

"Level 10 WB" (with serious national secrets to divulge, such as unmentioned
abuses at nuclear waste disposal plants, etc.) MUST be able to post from ANY
location using a key established through preliminary contact with a WB
Central User Registry. Ie., once a WB has established credentials by
providing verifiable info, s/he must be given a key to a "WB PO Box" wherein
s/he can leave msgs from any terminal with anonymity and encryption. FYI, a
TV reporter mentioned that the most useful information usually crops up in
the third or fourth contact with a WB - after all, there's a lot of
preliminary "getting-to-know-each-other" formality to get past (the Trust
Factor goes both ways, especially if the WB is placing him/herself in
Jepoardy). Such capabilities should be built into any kiosk calling itself
"fully WB-enabled." Perhaps SF Net tables could be considered "Introducing
Stations" and not full-blown (pun intended) WB Stations, used only for a

>>Public kiosks are not a panacea.  To argue that they should therefore
>>not exist is nonsense.

I'm certainly glad I didn't say that in any way, as I hate being nonsensical.

Phil Karn's excellent (and adventurous) suggestion that kiosk(s) be thought
of more as a public mailbox than a public phone, strikes at the crux of the
issue, though it presupposes that SF Net tables have floppy drives (of the
correct type eg. Mac- or DOS-compatible drives?) and other technological
amenities that they do not (yet?) have. The idea that a WB could prepare
material in the privacy of his/her own home is very, very appealing.

I genuinely apreciate all thoughful comments on the project.