1997-06-03 - Re: Rotenberg as the Uber Enemy

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From: Marc Rotenberg <rotenberg@epic.org>
To: 3umoelle@informatik.uni-hamburg.de (Ulf Möller )
Message Hash: fbd0ed1e9ac02c60bd9079c18f593c7ba6e14488dda866894f455a50b677a007
Message ID: <v0300781bafb9d67eb5c2@[]>
Reply To: <v03007801afb61ffec219@[]>
UTC Datetime: 1997-06-03 13:55:58 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 3 Jun 1997 21:55:58 +0800

Raw message

From: Marc Rotenberg <rotenberg@epic.org>
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 1997 21:55:58 +0800
To: 3umoelle@informatik.uni-hamburg.de (Ulf Möller )
Subject: Re: Rotenberg as the Uber Enemy
In-Reply-To: <v03007801afb61ffec219@[]>
Message-ID: <v0300781bafb9d67eb5c2@[]>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

>>I'd also appreciate some comment/criticism on
>>the piece I did for Wired.
>Could you post the URL, please, in case it is available on the web?
> UM


Eurocrats Do Good Privacy

Marc Rotenberg

       Late last November, David Chaum received the Information Technology
European Award for 1995. The prize, given
       for DigiCash's ecash technology, consisted of a trophy plus 200,000
ecu (approximately US$250,000). Chaum is best
       known for the development of anonymous payment schemes that are
becoming increasingly popular in Europe for
       everything from online commerce to highway toll systems.

       At about the same time that Chaum received the prestigious award,
Phil Zimmermann, inventor of the popular Pretty
       Good Privacy encryption program, sat in his Boulder, Colorado, home
wondering whether the US government would
       make good on its threat to prosecute him for trafficking in
munitions. Although federal prosecutors announced recently
       that they will drop the case against Zimmermann, the prospects that
he will get a big cash award from the US
       government anytime soon are less than slim.

       The contrast between a decorated cryptographer in Europe and one
trying to avoid prosecution in the United States is
       more than curious. It shows that governments, at least some
governments, can be a force for progress in the crypto

       Reread that sentence. It is not conventional wisdom in the United
States. Cyberlibertarians have been unrelenting in
       their opposition to any federal role in crypto policy. Free
marketers argue simply that there is no place for government
       in the development of high-tech products. Cyberanarchists seem to
doubt whether there is any role at all for

       Of course, the Clipper debacle provides plenty of ammunition for
these arguments. Clipper combined in equal measure
       government arrogance, technological incompetence, and profound
disregard for the rights of citizens. As an exercise in
       public policy, it ranks somewhere between the Bay of Pigs and the
CIA's experiments with psychics.

       But the recent European experience should give pause to these allies
in the battle for online privacy. Not only are
       European officials at the highest levels prepared to embrace
technologies of privacy, they have almost uniformly
       opposed US-inspired surveillance schemes such as Clipper.

       Two recent reports are indicative. In "Privacy-Enhancing
Technologies: The Path to Anonymity," the Netherlands and
       the Canadian province of Ontario call for an exploration of new
technologies to promote privacy. Similarly, Anitha
       Bondestam, director general of the Data Inspection Board of Sweden,
writes in a recent report, "It is more important
       than ever to bring back anonymity and make more room for personal
space." She urges her colleagues to sharply limit
       the collection of personal data.

       This is bold stuff coming from government officials. Put on the
privacy spectrum in the United States, these statements
       are far closer to the position of many cypherpunks than to that of
any officials currently developing privacy policy.

       In the United States, to the extent that the federal government has
said anything about anonymity, the script is written
       by the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network,
which is charged with investigating money
       laundering. Not surprisingly, FinCEN warns that electronic cash will
usher in a new era of criminal activity.

       It doesn't have to be this way. The reality of modern society is
that government officials make decisions every day
       about the rights of citizens. The question is whether they favor
proposals that respect privacy and personal dignity or
       not. Compared with governments that lack privacy officials,
governments that have privacy officials have repeatedly
       weighed in favor of privacy interests.

       Viewed against this background, many of the European privacy
regulations, often criticized by libertarians, should be
       seen for what they are - sensible responses of governments that
value their citizens' privacy rights. In such societies,
       technical means to protect privacy will be adopted - not viewed with

       Is the European system perfect? Of course not. Are the Europeans
doing a better job than Americans of promoting the
       technologies of privacy? Just ask David Chaum and Phil Zimmermann.

       -Marc Rotenberg is director of the Electronic Privacy Information
Center (www.epic.org/).