1996-12-30 - OCR and Machine Readable Text

Header Data

From: “Timothy C. May” <tcmay@got.net>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 469ee4ce5fee24697b48a4aa101527836896c58dafd31901e5716c2869f2f651
Message ID: <v03007800aeedb91b8f28@[]>
Reply To: <9612300237.AA17923@ua.MIT.EDU>
UTC Datetime: 1996-12-30 18:24:42 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 30 Dec 1996 10:24:42 -0800 (PST)

Raw message

From: "Timothy C. May" <tcmay@got.net>
Date: Mon, 30 Dec 1996 10:24:42 -0800 (PST)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: OCR and Machine Readable Text
In-Reply-To: <9612300237.AA17923@ua.MIT.EDU>
Message-ID: <v03007800aeedb91b8f28@[]>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

At 6:24 AM -0600 12/30/96, Mike McNally wrote:
>solman@MIT.EDU wrote:
>> The government's claim is that in the interests of national security,
>> export of cryptography must be prevented. By limiting the policy's
>> applicability to media which are in, or can easily be converted to,
>> electronic form ...
>Does anybody seriously believe that nbody writing these policies has
>an understanding of OCR software?  An on-line form of code printed
>in a book is just a quick trip to a scanner away.  They know that.

And not only is OCR able these days to handle general fonts easily enough,
but almost all printed code is in fixed-width fonts, i.e., non-proportional
fonts. This makes OCR easy. (I'm no longer a heavy duty OCR inputter, but I
used to get nearly 100% accuracy even on things like Times Roman
proportional fonts...Courier and other fixed fonts were child's play.)

But there's an even bigger issue: human inputting of text is _cheap_,
especially in various Third World nations which have a thriving industry
doing this. (For example, various credict card companies ship their paper
copies of credit trasnsactions to warehouses of people in places like
Barbados for manual keying in of data.)

For just the amount of money we've spent (in our consulting fees) on
discussing just this issue of OCRing, the entire content of the MIT PGP
source code book AND Schneier's AC could have been manually inputted by
Barbadans or Botswanas, or probably even by Europeans.

Of course, there are vastly easier and cheaper routes, such as just sending
the stuff directly, but this makes the point that there is no difference
between text and machine readable text.

--Tim May

Just say "No" to "Big Brother Inside"
We got computers, we're tapping phone lines, I know that that ain't allowed.
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
tcmay@got.net  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
W.A.S.T.E.: Corralitos, CA  | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^1398269     | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders aren't even speed bumps on the information superhighway."