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Re: Anonymity: A Modest Proposal

kelso ([email protected]) suggested:
[Let's split the message, get both parts independently to the
end-recipient and let him sort it out]

Thomas Grant Edwards ([email protected]) continued:
[Well, let's just get it there still encrypted]

I'll continue in this direction:

My understanding is that it is a Good Thing for the last stage remailer
to be able to claim:  "I received high entropy stuff. There is no way I
could tell what it was. I just forwarded it. I just make sure I do not
forward low entropy stuff."  Furthermore, it would help everybody if
end-recipients were somehow able to signal whether they are or are not
willing to read clearly anonymous material (and are suckers for
pseudonyms :-)

The problem is that it is currently the last stage's responsibility
to decipher most messages, and it is very difficult (at best) to go
back and modify all mail and news readers so their user can shield
himself from anonymous stuff.

We could however provide servers that make it "Very Easy" or at least
easier for the end-recipient to make sense of split or still encrypted
email messages:

(In broad lines, depending on the remailer type.)
The end-recipient may receive one encrypted message, or k split parts of
a message that say, prominently at the top (ni the message body so that
braindead mail readers show it to their users):

"If you are the end-recipient for this email message, you can get it
decrypted by forwarding it as is to a Handyserver such as
[email protected]  Don't worry about formats, the server
knows what to do. If you received several such messages, forward all of
them one by one or together. They may all be parts of one message. The
server remembers parts for a week, while waiting for more parts, and
will respond when done."

Now, we need a way for this to work for the end-recipient but not for
the last stage remailer. How about the message sender sending, through
the remailer network, to the Handyserver (How about Johnnyserv as an
other possible name :-), the decryption key, the end-recipient email
address and name, and the first few bytes of the encrypted messages.
The Handyserver authenticates service requests with some heuristic
based on name and email, and knows which key to apply based on the
message's first few bytes. That's extremely weak authentication but it
usually takes no effort by the end-recipient and the last stage
remailer can now say "I cannot attempt to get all my traffic through
Handyservers. Not only it would be very time consuming, but I would
have to illegally forge the recipient's address and the Handyserver
would forward the decrypted version directly to the end-recipient
anyway." The Handyserv can also keep a list of tokens publically posted
for the sender to be able to confirm whether his message was or was not
decrypted (that's an acknowledgement for a successful transmission
through the remailer system, too.)

In summary, the Handyserver provides a "mild" function: Its logs could
permit the identification of the last stage remailer, but so what, the
end-recipient had this info already. The last stage remailer now is
safer.  And the end-recipient has to choose and voluntarily get the
message decrypted.

That could take care of email. Maybe something similar is possible for
news (more or less the way rot13 worked, way back then, in the good old
times when it was deemed sufficient to protect sensitivities.)

[email protected]