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Re: Los Angeles Times article on Helsingius and anon.penet.fi
> >>Is this _really_ the EFF policy on anonymopus remailers??
EFF does not have an agreed-upon position on anonymity (or
anonymopusity). Each of us speaks as individuals on the topic.
Several EFF board members have experienced problems around anonymity.
On the Well, there was an experiment in anonymity which ended poorly.
I wasn't there so it's hard to critique it in hindsight. But it
certainly convinced ex-EFF-board-member Stewart Brand of the dangers of
Personally I'm in favor of anonymity. I've researched the Supreme
Court cases that support it, and spoken on panels in favor of it. I
frequently point out that postal mail and telephones are anonymous,
and the world has not disintegrated. Part of what started the
cypherpunks in the first place was the anonymous remailer game, in
which some players tried to figure out who was passing notes to who,
while the others tried to conduct transactions anonymously under their
noses. I was arrested at an airport a few weeks ago, and kept in
custody for 2-1/2 hours, for refusing to identify myself (and failing
to turn on my laptop on command!). If the ACLU is interested, I'd
love to make a test case out of it. I think in America we have -- and
should work to keep -- the right to travel within our borders without
identifying ourselves or producing any kind of government "papers".
But I sure can tell you I got mad when someone "anonymously" punctured
the tires of the car I was driving, for many weeks in a row. The
hardest part was that I had no way to figure out WHY they were doing
it -- there was no way to communicate with them. (Perhaps I should've
painted a message on the tires...)
If you think the problem with anonymity is restricted to physical
damage, think again; there are ways to do non-physical damage.
"Outing" people who have secrets is one way; confronting people with
ideas that they are unprepared to deal with is another. Not to
mention theft of intellectual property, fraud, and other economic
damage, that anonymity makes it harder to deter or punish.
Like free speech and democracy, anonymity comes with its drawbacks;
it's just better than the alternatives. Personally I think each
person should have the right to choose how much to identify themselves
and how much to be anonymous, in each situation. Without losing
their civil rights (like the right to travel, or to speak or publish).
PS: I would counsel against the kind of false anonymity provided by
the Finnish server, though. Providing information under the promise
that it will "never be revealed or misused" is a lot more dangerous
than never providing it at all. E.g. "Anonymous cash" that is really
based on dossiers or account-numbers isn't anonymous at all. Even
physical cash is getting easier to trace; the British government has
been tracking money by serial numbers for years, with custom machines
in the banks, to de-anonymize Irish freedom-fighters (oops, I mean
terrorists). Anonymity is another area, like privacy, where changes
from technology can make big social differences.