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BlackNet Meets Stanford Law School

At 8:51 PM 10/24/95, Futplex wrote:

>On GAK:
>        "[...] key escrow [...] may sound reasonable, but apply that
>         reasoning to more mundane areas of life. What the government
>         is saying is yes, you can put bars on your windows, locks on
>         your doors and put your jewelry in a safe, but you have to
>         give us the keys and the combination because you might be a
>         crook."
>That phrasing sounds rather familiar....

Hmmmhhh...yes, doesn't it though?

By the way, I gave a talk at Stanford Law School last week, to Professor
Margaret Radin's seminar on "Cyberspace and the Law." They had been reading
a bunch of papers and reprints on Clipper, PGP, and crypto policy,
including pieces by both me and Michael Froomkin (whose long paper is
apparently becoming widely read for crypto-legal discussions).

I was using the "curtain" metaphor for key escrow, describing a situation
where the government might insist people only install curtains that have a
secret invisibility mode, where the curtains become transparent to them
only. It's more than just becoming transparent completely, as with key
escrow one does not know that one's communications have been rendered
readable...unless they eventually tell you, as they are _supposed_ to do
with some classes of wiretaps (but not others, as in foreign intelligence

One of the students came up with a nice extension of this metaphor: using
one's own system inside a key escrow wrapper (also called
"superencryption") is like adding a second set of curtains inside the first
set. An obvious point, but a nice metaphor that makes the point to one and
all: the mandatory key escrow system, if adopted, would mandate the use of
transparent-mode curtains and would ban (or try to) the use of additional
sets of curtains.

(What about internal room dividers which obscure the view into one's house
that the cops want? The crypto parallels to this are interesting.)

By the way, Professor Radin made an interesting comment at the end of the
class. I'm paraphrasing, and any loss of her actual intended meaning may be
my fault, so don't take this as gospel.

She said she had previously thought that the implications of strong crypto
would be "handled normally" within the context of markets and courts, but
that after hearing my description of many issues (*) she now has doubts
that the conventional legal system and conventional market system will be
able to handle normally the implications of strong crypto. (By handle
normally, I took her to mean in the way that several other recent
technological advances have been handled without significant disruptions,
in an evolutionary way.)

(* The issues are the usual suspects: anonymous digital cash, remailers,
information markets, copyrights, markets that benefit from untraceable
communication, the BlackNet experience, the utter unbreakability of
long-enough keys, and so on.)

--Tim May

Views here are not the views of my Internet Service Provider or Government.
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
Corralitos, CA              | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^756839      | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."