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Re: The Esther Dyson Flap

At 8:40 PM 9/3/96, Duncan Frissell wrote:

>Everyone please take a deep breath.  Slow down.  Reread Esther's comments.
>Count to 10.  Notice that nowhere does she call for state action to outlaw
>anonymity.  She explicitly predicted a place for anonymity in her CFP'95
>talk (is it on the Net anywhere?).  We may disagree with her predictions of
>the future scope of anonymity or with her concerns about the risks of the
>practice but she has never called for State action.  She is discussing the
>problems she perceives with it.  That's all.

I certainly read her words, and don't need to be told to reread them just
because I take them to mean she supports anonymity less than many of us
would like.

As I said in my message to Chuck Thompson, I held off in criticizing her
"L.A. Times" words until I could get a better clarification of what she
said, precisely, what was taken out of context, and what she really meant
to say. When she spoke up and the result was just as ambivalent about
anonymity rights, this is when I wrote my first criticism of her views.

And I saw her CFP '95 talk. I've also read various of her other comments on
the Net, freedom, responsibility, and anonymity. Some of her comments:

* "Esther Dyson, President EDventure Holdings, Inc. said her work with the
Electronic Frontier Foundation was based on the assumptions that the
Internet will have a beneficial effect on society. "The longer I have been
at this, the more questions I have about these assumptions," she said."

(Perhaps Esther is finding the goals of the EFF--or at least the views of
the other board members--are not her goals.)

* "The second way to create friction is to create accountability, identity
and personality. "I would like to see a world where anonymity is not
illegal, but is
discouraged," Dyson said. "It has its place in life, but people should have
persistent identities.""

(Couple with other comments about possibly requiring traceability (albeit
with some legal protections), it sure does sound like her form of
"discouraged" would imply a role for government.)

* "This raises the issue of privacy. "I am looking at a notion of privacy
for the consumer, but less privacy for companies and public office holders
others in positions of responsibility," she said."

(Is this the direction the EFF is being taken in? Granted, these are her
comments, but surely the views of the Chairman of the EFF affect the
personality and direction of the organization.)

These quotes from: http://seicenter.wharton.upenn.edu/SEIcenter/panel3.html.

By the way, the Scientologists have also noted her views:

"Esther Dyson, member of the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation and member of the National Information Infrastructure Advisory
Council, spoke on the anonymity issue at the fifth Computers, Freedom &
Privacy (CFP) conference in San Francisco. "I have a concern about the
spread of bad behavior on the Net," said Dyson. "Anonymity figures into
this, and I feel that it has proven to not be a positive factor. It breaks
the community which we are seeking to build, and could turn the 'big
cities' of the information infrastructure into a big cesspool."

"Remailers who facilitate anonymous postings are part of the problem. They
can act as conduits for those who seek anonymity as a way to act illegally
without getting caught; yet remailers are able to shield themselves from
responsibility or liability.

"Computer experts stress that anonymous users should at least be trackable
by the remailers -- and that ones who act unlawfully can easily put the
remailers at risk. Dyson noted that in self-regulatory schemes for almost
any part of the Internet, "visibility, not anonymity, would have a strong

(end quote, from "Freedom," at http://www.theta.com/goodman/hijack.htm)

>Remember she is from the soft left.  She is not a macho-flash radical
>libertarian like many of us.  Save the 155 MM howitzers for the armed
>opposition not for our allies.

I don't know what "macho-flash" means, but I reject the label.

And please spare us the "save the howitzers" comment. We talk about what
concerns us. As it happens, our political opponents don't read our words,
whereas a bunch of EFF board members apparently do, and so our criticisms
here may cause EFF to actually confront the issue of anonymity and decide
where they actually stand.

--Tim May

We got computers, we're tapping phone lines, I know that that ain't allowed.
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
W.A.S.T.E.: Corralitos, CA  | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Licensed Ontologist         | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders aren't even speed bumps on the information superhighway."