Re: WWW representation of Real World? (I hope not)

Date: Sun Feb 06 2000 - 20:35:48 MST

Doug Jones, <>, writes, responding to the idea of
pseudonymous postings:

> But then I would sacrifice the credibility I've built up over the years. I
> know that new, pseudonymous posters on technical newsgroups often:
> 1) are engaging in hatchet jobs (I was targeted by one of these a few
> months ago, but my reputation carried the day)
> 2) have no history, by definition- and face the problem of the classic "man
> in the chair" ads in Aviation Week ("I don't know you, I don't know your
> company, I don't know your product, I don't know your customers- now
> what did you want to sell me?")
> My reputation is valuable to me, but in order to build up a reputation, I
> have to be (surprise surprise) reputable. Anonymous posters must fight an
> uphill battle for this.

Years ago there was a technology proposed which was designed to handle
this kind of problem. Based on cryptographic techniques invented (and
patented) by David Chaum, you could have a set of pseudonyms, which would
be used in different situations and for different purposes.

The idea was that you would get a "credential", which is like a
cryptographic certificate or signature, associated with your pseudonym.
This would be a certification by the issuer that your nym had some
specific property. It might be a statement that you were a good credit
risk, or that you'd returned all your library books, or that you're
technically knowledgeable in field X.

The unique aspect of Chaum's system was that he had a mathematical trick
by which a credential issued on one of your nyms could be transferred to
any of your other nyms, in a "blind" manner so that the nyms wouldn't be
linked. You could get your "good credit risk" credential from a bank and
show it at a store, without your bank nym being linked to your store nym.

Chaum elaborated his system with mathematical extensions that allowed
credentials to be combined in various ways, or to handle numeric
inequalities, so you could show you were over 21 without revealing your
actual age, for example. He even had some ways to deal with negative
credentials, so you could not hide the fact that you had received a
negative credential on one of your nyms, even when using another.

In practice though the system would have some difficulties, for example
people might share nyms in ways that the system does not intend to allow.
So far no one seems to have made any effort to put this kind of credential
system into use.


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