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Re: The Value of Anonymity

Hear, hear!  mkj's article on anonymity is worth reading.

From my perspective, the most important thing cryptography offers us
is not just the ability to have private conversations without eavesdroppers;
it's the ability to change the balance of power from the centralized
control and accumulation of information that computers bring back
to a level where _you_ can control what happens to your personal data.

Do you _like_ starting transactions by giving some big company your
Social Security Number which lets them, and everyone else, know
everything you've ever done, where you live, how you vote, what you buy?
We can move to a society where you can give the other party as much
information as they need to do business with you, without having to 
give them everything else, or connect this transaction to all your others.
Sometimes that means giving people more detail than you give them now, 
usually less.  Cryptography becomes the technical glue to control 
how much you tell somebody on each transaction, anywhere from total
anonymity to deep personal information, to let you have a driver's license
that says "yes this person is a safe driver" without it becoming
the key to your bank account of you lose your wallet, to have voter's
registration that doesn't permit fraud but doesn't require universal

Some good technical references are the set of papers that David Chaum
published about blind signatures and anonymous credentials.