[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Extortion Explosion

Here's another thought about how crypto anonymity can improve
public safety.

Today, a lot of police activity is based on informants and "anonymous"
tips.  Policemen build up relationships with underworld characters
who can give them information about criminal activity.  In return,
the police may offer favors, immunity from arrest, perhaps even
cash or contraband in some instances.

Some people have claimed that "anonymous sources" are an excuse sometimes
used to cover up illegal police activity.  An illegal wiretap is used
to acquire information, then a warrant is obtained based on this
information with the claim that it was actually acquired through
an anonymous informant.  With the warrant in place, the wiretap is now
done legally, and evidence is produced which can be used in court.

One problem with anonymous tips is that the people making them are
taking a risk.  If word gets out that a certain person tipped off
the police to some criminal act, they may be targetted for revenge.
Personal meetings between police and informers are often necessary
(perhaps for payoffs to occur) and these are risky for all involved.

Crypto anonymity could make anonymous informing easy and safe.  Of
course, not all tips would be valuable, but some fraction would be
helpful in preventing crimes.  Crypto pseudonyms and signatures could
be used for informants to develop reputations so that those who have
been accurate in the past will get the most attention.  Digital cash
could even be used for payoffs from cops to informants "under the
table", with no need for dangerous face-to-face meetings.

A system could even develop in which police would have to bring to
a judge not just a blanket claim that there was an anonymous informant,
but more substantial evidence, in the form of a digitally signed statement
by a pseudonym known to have produced useful information in the past.
This could reduce the problem of imaginary informants invented to
excuse illegal police activity.