1993-05-31 - Clipper harmful to CPs?

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From: Hal <74076.1041@CompuServe.COM>
Message Hash: d8f14439bf3761c10cfd2efcd03003e1d3b556a5c6b10ae3018c511c00262b43
Message ID: <93053115114074076.1041_FHD60-4@CompuServe.COM>
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UTC Datetime: 1993-05-31 14:39:38 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 31 May 93 07:39:38 PDT

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From: Hal <74076.1041@CompuServe.COM>
Date: Mon, 31 May 93 07:39:38 PDT
Subject: Clipper harmful to CPs?
Message-ID: <930531151140_74076.1041_FHD60-4@CompuServe.COM>
MIME-Version: 1.0
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Headline: "Clipper Considered Harmful"

...so what else is new, huh?

But I was thinking specifically of Cypherpunks.  Reading the article
about the group in the Whole Earth Review, an article written before
the advent of the Clipper proposal, reminded me of all the things we
were working on before the Clipper forced them onto the back burner.

Anonymous mail, anonymous posting, steganography, digital cash, whistle-
blowers, encryption itself - all the ingredients of Tim's "crypto anarchy" -
in many of these areas it seemed we had a certain amount of momentum which
has been lost.  If "Cypherpunks write code", how much code has been written
lately?  Now it seems like our motto is changing to "Cypherpunks write
letters", to their congressmen.

Things are not all black; Miron Cuperman has recently released his encrypted
talk program based on PGP technology, and Kevin Brown's postings on stega-
nography had some interesting ideas, although they need some development
before anything could be coded.  But for the most part progress in our
previous areas of attention has been slowed if not halted.

This can only be welcome to the forces which created the Clipper.  Even if
the chip fails, they have at least succeeded in distracting the underground
crypto community, dividing it to some extent (to PGP or not to PGP?), and
delaying the prospect of having to deal with a fully functioning infrastructure
for true anonymity and privacy.

I know Clipper is an important threat, and I know that many in the Cypherpunks
community have helped lead the battle against the chip.  But I am encouraged
by the widespread opposition to the proposal among technically sophisticated
people - not just on the net, but in the trade press as well.  The right
groups (EFF, CPSR, etc.) are asking the right questions, and Rep. Markey
is turning up the heat in Washington.

The battle is not yet won, but there is only a limited amount of leverage
available in the political process.  Our main skills are technical, not
political.  I contend that our efforts are better spent putting the technology
into people's hands, per the group's original charter.  We should be working
to create new tools which will increase the average computer user's access
to strong privacy.  We should be pushing the envelope of what is possible
today, exploring and experimenting with implementations of these new ideas.

I claim that our best response to the threat posed by Clipper is a hearty
"screw you" and a rededication to the Cypherpunks goals.  Let the powers that
be know that we are not intimidated or cowed by their threats.  We must
continue to oppose Clipper, but at the same time we must make progress on
the crypto privacy front.  Otherwise our opponents are winning, regardless of
the eventual political outcome.

Hal Finney

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