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Re: on anonymity, identity, reputation, and spoofing




It is suggested we can gather this information per pseudonym:
> >1) how long they have been on the list in days...
> >2) how many postings... 
> >3) ...posting/age ratio...
> >4) ...tracking the number of responses a given poster has...

Jamie Dinkalecker responds: 
> Each of these suggestions call for data that may contribute to identifying
> individuals, tracking their behavior or providing information useful to
> decypher some messages. 

Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent such information being 
gathered by list subscribers, with the minor change that (1) would be 
time since first posting.  The NSA, BlackNet, Internet junk mailers,
or Extortions R Us might be gathering it now if they liked, and for many 
of us with our True Names to boot.  

In my limited experience creating Internet pseudonyms, I've been quite 
distracted by the continual need to avoid leaving pointers to my
True Name lying around -- excess mail to/from my True Name, shared 
files, common peculiarities (eg misspellings in written text), traceable 
logins, etc.   The penet.fi site explicitly maintains a list of pointers 
to the original address.  All kinds of security controls -- crypto, access, 
information, inference -- have to be continually on my mind when using 
pseudonymous accounts.  The hazards are everywhere.  With our current 
tools it's practically impossible to maintain an active pseudonym for a 
long period of time against a sufficiently determined opponent, and
quite a hassle to maintain even a modicum of decent security.  Pointers
to info and/or tools to enable the establishment and maintenance of a 
net.nym, beyond the standard cypherpunks PGP/remailer fare with which 
I'm now familiar, greatly appreciated.  Especially nice would be a list 
of commercial net providers that allow pseudonymous accounts.

Another big problem I see with pseudonymous reputations
is entry.  If most people are blocking posts from new pseudonyms, how 
does one get a new reputation established?   I've had several years
to establish a net.reputation for "Nick Szabo", and it
might take a long time for any of my pseudonyms to catch up.   
Altruistic sponsorship requires trusted friends knowing
the True Name, but that public sponsorship itself provides
important clues pointing to that Name.  Sponsorship by the True Name via 
an anonymous reputation market (like HEx, but securely anonymous and
perhaps tied to futures on the pseudonym's declared income), might 
be quite useful.  (For information on the HEx market, send
mail to hex@sea.east.sun.com with the subject line "commands").

I hope that we stick to experimenting with pure anonymity
in many venues.  I suggest we'll find out that purely anonymous
posts are not so bad, overall.  Some of the recent stuff has been weird
or rude, but so have been a lot of True Name flames that have passed 
thru this list.  We find True Name posts easier to deal with
because it's what we're used to.  Many are comforted by the thought
that as a last resort, if a flame is just too evil, the poster
can be tracked down and made to pay for his sins.   The WELL
was so threatened by the thought of anonymity that they required
all pseudonyms to be traceable to the True Name, as an explicit
policy right from the start of the system.  Pure anonymity in all 
its manifestations is a strange, threatening, fascinating beast
in our panoptic social-welfare world.  Even those of us at
the forefront of harnessing this monster shrink back in fear
when it whinnies.

Many of the recent anon posts have been quite productive, eg 
"Wonderer's" embarrassing newbie questions which motivated Hal 
Finney to first write a nice explanation of digital cash, then 
think of an interesting simplification of Chaum's scheme.  Under
any system falling short of truly intelligent filters,
Hal would not have filtered S. Boxx's first posts
without also filtering Wonderer's first posts.

Pure anonymity provide voice for a wide variety of new kinds
of expression that up until now have been suppressed.
Some kinds are good (whistleblowing), some bad
(slander).  Most are good or bad depending on the 
situation (asking embarrassing newbie questions, expressing politically 
incorrect opinions, discussing illegal activities, etc.)  I hope we 
continue experimenting with pure anonymity for a while longer, as well 
as experimenting with reputation-based pseudonymous systems.  Some of 
what comes out might look very strange, something like tapping into 
previously concealed areas of our social psyche.  I suspect the
result will be a more honest dialog, a more productive conversation
freed from posturing and, ironically, from the concealment of threatening 
truth.  I hope we will observe the resulting new forms of good and evil
with Zen patience and allow this quite interesting experiment to 
continue.

Nick Szabo				szabo@netcom.com