1994-05-11 - Remailer Comments (was: “Why Digital Cash…”)

Header Data

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 86909e2648ee7879cc275dd9ca3147b2d795244bb0ef8fb759883728309124f0
Message ID: <199405110221.TAA03509@netcom.com>
Reply To: <199405110047.RAA09840@jobe.shell.portal.com>
UTC Datetime: 1994-05-11 02:21:25 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 10 May 94 19:21:25 PDT

Raw message

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
Date: Tue, 10 May 94 19:21:25 PDT
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Remailer Comments (was: "Why Digital Cash...")
In-Reply-To: <199405110047.RAA09840@jobe.shell.portal.com>
Message-ID: <199405110221.TAA03509@netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

"Nobody" writes:

> Well I'm bummed, my earlier post on this seems to have been totally
> ignored.  I will shorten it.

I saw it and thought it quite good. As to why nobody (besides Nobody,
of course) commented.... I wrote an essay on how the "bad posts drive
out the good," that is, the trivial chatter and net.repartee posts
tend to dominate over the thoughtful, detailed reports. I sent this
around 5 p.m., PDT, on Saturday, so it no doubt vanished into the
Maximal Entropy empty set. (However, being anal retentive, I saved a
copy...I will resubmit it when the readership gets back to a high
enough level.)

>   Owning the machine this stuff runs on (no other users) is necessary
>   for key security.  For guarding against what Tim calls "Mom and Pop"
>   type remailers (ones that may vanish at anytime when a student
>   graduates, moves, etc.)

Actually, these are not what I mean by "Mom and Pop remailers." My
usage here is that someday there will be the infrastructure to support
local entrepreneurial services, wherein households (hence "Mom and
Pop") set up remailer services and collect digital postage. Far from
being flaky (the "Joe College remailers." one might call them), these
remailers-for-pay would need to be counted on to be up, and could not
afford to be flaky.

O'Reilly and Associates (the Unix books people) are about to unveil
their "Internet-in-a-box" product. Can it be much longer before some
of you enterprising remailer builders offer "Remailer-in-a-box"? 

>   - exposure: the operator assumes a certain (almost unpredictable)
>     risk.  For example:
>     * suppose I run a data haven and people use it for moving pirated
>       software. 
>     * suppose somebody uses an anonymous remailer to threaten another

This apparently is happening. Offshore remailers will help, but a
malicious person planning a denial of service attack can still send
threats, pirated software, etc., through a remailer he want to put
heat on.

> Don't get me wrong, I'm in favor of this technology (I've run
> remailers, etc.).  But the "infrastructure" to deal with some events
> isn't here.

Agreed. But the infrastructure won't exist until some experiments have
been done and evolutionary learning takes place. A platitude perhaps,
but still the truth.

> What are the incentives for running these services?  None as far as I
> can tell, other than the satisfaction of doing it.  I'm not sure the
> market is ready for anonymous mail, data havens, etc.  So it falls to
> interested hobbyists to experiment with.

Longterm (as short as 2 years perhaps, but more likely 5-10 years...an
eyeblink, as I see it) the incentive is as with *any other service*.
Just like Federal Express or UPS. "Digital postage" of some form.

> Johan Helsingus (Julf of anon.penet.fi) spends hours a day maintaining
> his site, responding to complaints, etc.  He provides a valuable
> service, which obviously is very popular... all the same, I'll bet
> when he asked for a donation of $5 per account to help defray costs,
> he got almost no response.

A variant of the "tragedy of the commons," of course. All users
benefit, regardless of contributions. For now, Julf is presumably
deriving psychic satisfaction (fame, notoriety, happiness at perhaps
helping people in the *.recovery "confession" groups, etc.). He
sometimes comments here, so perhaps he will now.

When there is a need for some service, and the means to make that
service happen, and the economic incentives, the service usually gets

I'm not too worried about "making it happen," myself. Only in doing
what I can to head-off any restrictive moves by governments. 

I'm pretty hopeful. Strong crypto + wide-open communications = this
future we talk about. Whatever form remailers take, it's probably too
late to stop them.

--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."