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key escrow compromise

to most on the list, the subject of this message would be an oxymoron.
("there is no compromise!")

regarding the recent Netscape brouhaha:

I tend to agree with Clark in only one regard: the government is going
to get into the key storage/retrieval business in some form or another
eventually & inevitably; it's just not stoppable. like one of the NSA 
spooks said after the Clipper fiasco, "well, we had to try". the aspect
that is up for grabs is whether these systems will be *mandatory* for
all private communication.

here's a quick idea. the post office is getting into 
certification authorization come hell or high water (ETA summer, 96). 
now, frankly I think this is a good thing. someday we will need some kind 
of legal agency to deal with citizen keys, so that we could have
cryptographic dealings with federal agencies such as the motor
vehicles department, etc. 

many are going to blast me to oblivion
for saying this, though. but don't you think there are some benign
government services that you would like to have access to via
your "state" or "legal identity" key? this would prevent other
people from faking your identity in front of the state, e.g. voter fraud,
and other miscellaneous things.

it seems to me the problem is when a government begins to insist
that the only authorized encryption you can use must be based on the
secret key they give you is where all the problems arise.

so, what we could advocate as a compromise (given that the post office
is absolutely not going to *not* get in this business, from what I can
tell). we encourage the idea of 


this would be a heading for the idea that we are in support of the (our)
government creating cryptographic infrastructures and key authentication
services, as long as we always have the total freedom to encrypt 
according to however we please in private communications.

in other words, we are willing to have an official state identity/key as
long as it is not required in our private transactions, only those involving
the state. (yes of course I know "state" is a pornographic word here, heh).
if you don't like this imagine it as a "stopgap measure" on the way toward
full cryptoanarchic infocalypse that government bureacrats might buy.

another idea is that we might reasonably support a system that has
such a thing as "key escrow" but we only use the keys they give us
as part of our signatures to other people if we want to reveal our
"official" state identity, not to encode the communication itself.
in this way someone else could verify your identity for e.g. legal/
contractual purposes, but the overall communication would remain private.

in other words, we agree that the government does have the authority
to link people to their "official numbers", but we have a choice about
when to use those official numbers in any private communication, and
by law businesses do not ever have to *require* authentication in this way. 
the numbers of course would be required in communication between the individual
and government.

the situation is that the government *now* requires that it knows who
we are when we communicate with it in any official context. therefore
I submit that the above system would not take away any rights, and in
fact might lead to privacy advocates being able to use a massive government
key-infrastructure but still retain communication privacy.  in other words,
you now have the government actually supporting your cryptographic 
freedom by giving you a massive "official" key distribution system you can 
use any way you like.

another possible compromise is that by default, keys would be insecure,
in the sense the government stores them for "key escrow" purposes,
but people are always recognized as having the right as "tunneled 
encryption" (a great term for private encryption within the state encryption).

you see, cypherpunks often recognize that most of the world is so clueless
that they don't protect themselves, and they almost don't deserve to have
privacy by the default if they are entirely clueless or apathetic about
obtaining. so what we might be able to accomplish is a system in which all
the clueless people use the government-supplied keys, the FBI cracks some
percentage of "clueless" criminal communication, and non-clueless people
go ahead and bypass it all.

now, before you hotly flame my eyebrows off,
I say these things not because I like key escrow, but that I suspect
the post office is going to move into certification no matter what, and
the idea of key escrow is closely related to that. with a little finetuning
the cypherpunk position could help define the actual rights of individuals
relative to these new government systems in a way that is totally 
compatible with all our core privacy beliefs.

what I am getting at is that we could twist the words "key escrow"
to mean that the government provides some infrastructure for storing
& accessing public keys (similar to phone books), and we could 
simultaneously vehemently deny that "key escrow" legitimately allows 
the government to actually *have* our secret keys.

in other words, we say, "yes we support key escrow. of course it is
a good idea to let the government have simple phonebooks of keys. oh,
wait, you mean we have to USE THESE KEYS? in the official STATE
WITH EVERY BUSINESS? sorry buster, what I do with
my key is my private matter. this would be again to having official
government phones that allowed the government to call any number
and start surveilling the room the phone is in."