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Usenet: pseudonymity's killer app


     Risks Digest 17.42 contains a Boston Globe story by Simson
L. Garfinkel detailing the risks of the DejaNews (http://dejanew.com)
Usenet archiving service.  Not only does this service archive Usenet
postings, it provides a "sophisticated system for retrieving 'author
profiles' of the individuals who have posted messages."  Many people
are upset at what they view as an invasion of privacy.

     The article notes that:

 > But Usenet has actually been archived for a long time. Many schools,
 > for example, have backup tapes containing Usenet messages dating back
 > many years. Furthermore, says Madere, the National Security Agency and
 > possibly other law enforcement or intelligence organizations has been
 > cross-referencing and indexing Usenet for quite some time. "I know for
 > a fact that they do have a text retrieval database which contains
 > Usenet," says Madere.  Creating a searchable index of Usenet " was
 > already done for what people might consider to be sinister purposes,"
 > says Madere. "What we have done is made it searchable for useful
 > purposes."

     DejaNews will be archiving the alt, talk, and soc groups
beginning later this year.  That could result in many more people
becoming upset at the service.

     It would appear that ISPs could make money from offering
anonymous or pseudonymous accounts to their customers who would rather
not have their postings used by marketers, employers, or neighbors.
Providing protection from junk mailers is also more politically
defensible in this society than providing protection from the

     This could be the catalyst for widely used and accepted
pseudonymity on the net.

Patrick May

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