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The subject of Saturday's game
I just joined the list; I've read such archives as are locally
available, but I apologize if this subject has already come up.
Talking to a couple of people who had been to Saturday's meeting, I
was deeply disturbed by the choice of subject for the simulated
privacy game - trying to purchase illegal drugs. This is a subject on
which rational public discussion is essentially non-existent in this
country. Let me first state that I do favor the legalization of drugs,
and I am a committed libertarian (as I suspect are many of the people
in this group).
However, I think it is unwise to tie cryptography in with this issue.
Communications privacy is *too important* to take the risk that it
will get caught up in the current hysteria of the New Prohibition.
There have already been enough government attacks on cryptography that
we do not want to give them any more ammunition.
I think that if we are committed to getting cryptographic technology
in wide use, and spreading true privacy and information security
throughout the world, then we need to take careful account of the
political and social factors, as well as the technical. In order to be
successful, this needs to be not just a development project, but also
a marketing campaign. When an MIS manager at some large corporation
is deciding whether to upgrade her network to privacy-enhanced mail,
we want her to associate it with security and liberty, not the street
corner punks who are trying to sell her kids crack.
In this vein, let me suggest some subjects for future simulations:
- organizing the Boston Tea Party in the face of British spies
- purchasing condoms or Lady Chatterley's Lover back when they
were banned (these bans seem so absurd now, that trying to get
around them seems sensible and ordinary, and may start people
thinking about the absurdity of current interdictions)
- Yeltsin/Gorbachev vs the coup leaders
Furthermore, given the erosiion of constitutional protections in the
Drug War, I think the participants in Saturday's game were taking a
non-trivial risk to their persons and property. If the risk were
necessary to help spread cryptographic privacy, I think none would
begrudge it; however, I think it was not only unnecessary, but
counterproductive. 'Nuff said.
To life and liberty,