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T. Wells & Anonymity

My last response to Mr. Wells was in private and I hoped he would take
that course himself in future communication, but as it stands he now
has screamed insults at me twice in a row in this forum, and I must
address his latest unanswered letter; most of these following points
are from my private letter.

The fundamental issue at stake is: is Mr. Wells routinely and regularly
monitoring the content of the email he forwards via his so-called
`anonymous server'? The answer is: definitely. To do so is very
ethically borderline, IMHO, no matter who his `family'. This was enough
to alarm me seriously to the point of writing a very vehement letter
condemning this type of `surveillance'. Yes, he has provided this
service for a long time, he is doing so voluntarily, he has a select
group of participants with a particular sensitivity and need, `most' of
whom are satisfied with it, this I all acknowledge.

However, it's evident to me that all users of anonymous services have a
set of unconscious expectations, foremost among them that the operator
will not routinely be reading their mail. I pointed out to Mr. Wells
that breaking the violation of trust in privacy may lead the operator
to breach the trust in anonymity. Merely the knowledge of content can
lead the operator to serious quandaries that can be wholly avoided in
completely adhering to privacy. Furthermore, an operator who does not
strive to adhere conscientiously to the set of unconscious user
expectations, even if working on a voluntary basis, is actually doing
his users a disservice.

Mr. Wells' rambling letter, replete with references to his personal
philosophy of Objectivism, is a complicated set of rationalizations
that amount to `yes, I regularly monitor my server's email traffic, in
fact I consider it my duty.'  Given his unswerving obstinacy to this
practice, I asked that he make this policy clear in his introductory
statements to the server, but he has consistently failed to reassure me
that he actually has done so, making me wonder to what extent of the
readers in the newsgroup and of his server (a substantial overlap
according to him) are aware of this very serious matter of `systematic
observation'. Are any people using this server as a plain vanilla
server, or do they all realize that they are establishing a very strong
personal arrangement of trust with this operator, who considers their
relationship analogous to the protective Platonic intimacy between a
therapist and his patients? Who will personally censor messages he
thinks will unduly upset them?

Mr. Wells tells us that `this is neither the time nor the place to
discuss the wherefors and whys of abuse recovery; you'll just have to
take it as a given that the rules used for understanding people in
general won't work so well when applied to this newsgroup, or to my
anonymous service.'  Mr. Wells, I don't claim to be a specialist in the
area as you insinuate yourself, but I believe there are fundamental
laws of respect and candor that are appropriate -- *necessary* -- for
*all* people, and my concern is precisely that you may be not be
adhering to it in this case in presenting your policies. Your polarized
dance of defensiveness and offensiveness indicates to me clearly a
nerve has been struck.

Mr. Wells' letter is full of seemingly contradictory statements. He
seems to think that `confidentiality' and `privacy' are `two distinct
functions', and suggests that in his regular email monitoring he
actually achieves a `tighter, higher standard of confidentiality' than
Helsingius or Kleinpaste's servers.

Also, his attitudes on the limitations of his actual commitments to the
people who use his service are extremely disturbing.  He says `Their
rights do not extend to arbitary protection of their confidentiality or
privacy' and the actual protections granted are `mine to choose' and
`not implicit in an anonymous server'. I find these comments
simultaneously highly revealing and alarming. From my point of view the
sheer all-encompassing trust awarded a server operator by users
requires every conceivable commitment on the latter's part to
*transcend* the common denominator in user expectations of privacy.

Mr. Wells says he personally handles `half the traffic' of the sexual
abuse recovery newsgroup, and that `most' of its users and his
`potentially legitimate' correspondents are satisfied, and that most
people who have `expressed dislike for my policies' are coincidentally
`outsiders'. His service is `integral to a specific community'. Perhaps
so, but how would he react to another server operator specifically
serving that group? His statements seem to reflect a perverse pride in
his monopoly on the group's anonymity and secret knowledge of its
participants. IMHO, this is precisely the kind of extremely
compromising position encryption would effortlessly avert.

Finally, I'm extremely disappointed in Mr. Wells transparently
vitriolic rhetoric to deflect the primary issues of systematic
monitoring and truth in advertising to ugly subsidiary sideshows, such
as with his expert diagnosis of me as `mentally unbalanced'.  This
classicly ridiculous ad hominem insult is particularly ironically
insensitive coming from someone who professes to tiptoe around areas
requiring the utmost delicacy in human interaction in supporting people
with mental anguish! Yes, my mind is indeed teetering on the brink of a
breakdown -- from Mr. Wells blows, who says of me, `he should consider
himself honored that I bothered to tell him where he went wrong.' --
such words bespeak an attitude of shocking, sickening arrogance and
intolerance. Caveat emptor!

P.S. I will respond no further to Mr. Wells in this forum.