1994-03-03 - Re: clipper==bad, but how do you explain this to average joe 6-pack?

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From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
To: mike@EGFABT.ORG (Mike Sherwood)
Message Hash: 0a8274fcd8400162faf9ef3987c225b174a64b4031e58be05532f7770bb53b8b
Message ID: <199403030051.QAA05871@mail.netcom.com>
Reply To: <o34kic1w165w@EGFABT.ORG>
UTC Datetime: 1994-03-03 00:51:17 UTC
Raw Date: Wed, 2 Mar 94 16:51:17 PST

Raw message

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
Date: Wed, 2 Mar 94 16:51:17 PST
To: mike@EGFABT.ORG (Mike Sherwood)
Subject: Re: clipper==bad, but how do you explain this to average joe 6-pack?
In-Reply-To: <o34kic1w165w@EGFABT.ORG>
Message-ID: <199403030051.QAA05871@mail.netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Mike Sherwood writes:

> How do we go about explaining why clipper is bad to average joe 6-pack?  

Well, there are many approaches to take. Most of us (sorry, Lefty, for
speaking as a tapeworm :-} ) are totally opposed to Clipper and key
escrow in all its forms, as I'm sure most readers of this list know.
(A few defenders of Clipper have appeared here recently....draw your
own conclusions about the overall sentiment of the list.)

> I've noticed that most normal people seem to think the reasons against 
> clipper are just paranoid concerns of a bunch of conspiracy theorists.  

I've found just the opposite. Most of my non-crypto friends and family
understand the issues once they are explained. We've made these points
so many times before on this list, so I'll be brief. Mike and others
will have to use their imagination to flesh these points out. (And the
several excellent articles on crypto in "Wired," "Whole Earth Review,"
"Communications of the ACM," "The Village Voice," etc., are a good
place to go for more details. Some of these article are available

Limiting crypto is analogous to:

- requiring all letters to be written on postcards instead of sealed
in envelopes (Phil Zimmermann came up with this one)

- insisting that all locks on doors have their keys "escrowed" with
the local cops, just in case the cops want to make a midnight
"inspection" of your house.

- outlawing window shades and other obstructions to those who are
videotaping you through your windows.

- requiring that all photo processing labs make a duplicate set of all
photos and "escrow" them with the local Legion of Decency or Child
Protective Services Agency, just in case child nudity or other
evidence of criminality is suspected

- "Diary escrow," in case one's diary is suspected of containing
subversive writings or admissions of criminal behavior

- bugging of church confessionals...for obvious reasons. I mean, if
people are "confessing" their sins, shouldn't the police know? Dorothy
Denning certainly thinks so.

....Use your imagination to construct similar analogies to educate
your friends and opponents. The issues don't require any expertise in
number theory or cryptology to comprehend.

> clipper chip.  Or in the key database were compromised, such things could 
> be forged, but that's what average joe 6-pack sees as being the 
> imaginations of a bunch of conspiracy theorists in action.  How can this 
> be explained to people who have a hard time differentiating a 5.25" 
> floppy from a small paper plate? (Well, they couldn't do it 2 out of 3 
> times)

Don't phrase things in terms of computers, modems, floppy disks, etc.
Use familiar examples, such as locks on doors and personal diaries.

> If we can't effectively convince the average citizens that clipper is 
> bad, they'll accept it because the government told them it is good and 
> alternative crypto is bad because the only reason to hide something from 
> our benevolent, democratic government(which is always acting in our best 
> interests) is if we're hideous criminals.

Personally, I'm not fighting the battle of trying to convince my
neighbors and folks I meet at the gym that key escrow is bad.

We reach a lot more folks by talking to and educating journalists. I
of course spoke to several of them before the Clipper thing broke.
(But two of them got in contact with _me_ precisely because I'd
written about the evils of key escrow half a year before Clipper was
even announced....this meant their articles hit at the same time
Clipper was hitting.) I recently spent 2 hours on the phone answering
the many questions of a Southern California reporter who is writing a
long article on crypto and Clipper that he hopes to resell to many
other papers. I dwellt heavily on analogies like the ones I described
above....he seemed to think these analogies will be easily
understandable to his readers.

The more contact I have with journalists (Levy, Kelly, Dibbell,
Markoff, others), the more impressed I am. True, these are mostly
science or computer-literate folks, but their overall grasp of the
issues is impressive.

--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
tcmay@netcom.com       | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409           | knowledge, reputations, information markets, 
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA  | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^859433 | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."