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Re: Hallam-Baker demands more repudiations or he'll write!
At 04:51 PM 9/26/96 -0700, Declan McCullagh wrote:
>Anonymity and nonescrowed crypto are the linchpins of AP and its more
>general case, Maysian crypto anarchy. The withering of the nation-state.
>Whatever you want to call it.
>To prevent it, governments will ban both. A criminal law, passed in the
>wake of say a bombing this fall in Washington, DC, banning nonescrowed
>crypto. (Freeh will assert he has evidence the terrorists used PGPhone.)
>And another law banning online anonymity.
>What then, Mr. Bell?
While we should continue resist such developments, I (like many others) tend
to believe that the government is going to have a great deal of difficulty
implementing such restrictions, for reasons which have been discussed here
ad nauseum. I happen to believe that the really crucial reason Clipper was
proposed is so that it would exclude non-escrowed encryption using market
forces, because they understood that banning encryption or non-escrowed
encryption would be essentially impossible.
Remember the VHS/Beta VCR wars? With a fairly equal market in about 1978,
Beta died 10 years later because the market couldn't support two
incompatible standards. It wasn't that one was dramatically better than the
other, it was simply that having two standards forced the market to
duplicate stocks, for the machines as well as tapes, particularly
pre-recorded tapes. Notice, however, that VCR's are relatively "isolated":
It doesn't really matter if you have one format and your neighbor has
another, unless you want to swap tapes. But crypto telephones inherently
require (in the long term) full intercompability. If you didn't have that,
there'd be half a world of people you couldn't call!
(This kind of situation is remeniscent of a recollection my mother has of a
small town she grew up in, in which there were two competing telephone
companies serving the same area, but customers of company "A" couldn't call
company "B." The most popular girl in town was the daughter of a doctor,
who as a consequence of his profession had telephones from both companies.
That girl was constantly being called to relay information between people on
opposite telephone companies!)
The government understood this, and realized that the best way to derail the
advent of a good crypto telephone standard was to produce one of their own,
which they figured would pre-empt and kill off any competing system. It
turns out that an essential element to this killing-off process is to
ensure that the telephones aren't compatible, so I was a bit surprised to
have to wait a long time to hear that one of the requirements for
Clipper-phone approval is that they NOT co-operate with non-escrowed
telephones. (I was surprised to have to WAIT to hear this, NOT that they
said it eventually...)
I think they realize that Clipper was their last opportunity to implement a
de-facto market ban on good encryption, but it isn't working.
As for a ban on anonymity I don't think that'll fly either. There are too
many interactions we do today (off the 'net as well as on) which are already
anonymous, even if we don't normally think of it that way. Visit a theater,
pay cash, and nobody records your name, for instance. Buy groceries, pay
cash. Throw coins in toll booth. Put coins in Coke machine, ride on bus,
etc. It would be very hard to prohibit non-anonymous interactions on the
net, with so many opportunities for unrestricted anonymity. There's even less
reason to ID non-economic transactions too. Since most interactions on the 'net
are not a financial transaction, there is even less reason to identify the people
So at the risk of being overly optimistic, I think the government isn't
going to be able to pull off the kind of anti-crypto/anti-anonymity coup you
describe. But nevertheless, I think that if they "progress" towards that
goal against the odds, that could easily be an excellent justification for
actions which you know they'll describe as "terrorism."