brin on privacy

John K Clark (
Tue, 10 Dec 1996 20:51:12 -0800 (PST)

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- (d.brin) Wrote:

>I love my own privacy and strive to protect it. However I
>also see the inevitability of its decay as the rich, mighty,
>and a techno-elite gain powers I can never hope to match.

I see no reason why the rich would increase their power over me as the
information age progresses, in fact I am confident the opposite is true. My
confidence comes not from politics but from Mathematics and the power of
exponential growth. In general, if I increase the complexity of my encryption
algorithm so that it takes me twice as long to encrypt a message, I have made
it not twice, but millions of times more difficult for an attacker to break
my code. The government has access to more powerful computers than I do, but
not that much more powerful. There is just no getting around it, recent
developments in mathematics and communication have tipped the balance away
from the tax collector and in favor of the tax evader, and that is the
Achilles heel of government.

>Am I right in positing that Finney would defend to the death
>the right of these lords of capital to evade scrutiny, even
>though conspiratorial aristocrats destroyed more freedom in
>history than bureaucrats ever have?

All the bad things that corporations have ever done from the beginning of time
amounts to little more than mischief compared to the monstrous evils that
governments routinely perpetrate. Companies may be tough with competitors
and rude to customers, but they don't build huge death camps and then shove
people into ovens.

>In fact, they cannot cite a single example from human
>history in which freedom was enhanced by selling masks and
>chadors to the poor.

How about those who sold phony ID cards and false identities to Jews in Nazi

>In a general atmosphere of candor [...] The Mafia wouldn't
>stand a chance.

And that would be a pity. The Mafia is successful because it supplies goods
and services that people want, the big money makers sometimes hurt those who
freely choose them, like drugs prostitution and gambling but that's the price
of freedom. Some Mafia endeavors like money laundering are positively noble,
it helps people protect their money from being stolen by government thugs.

>he [Hal] advocates that we enter a huge, dangerous experiment,
>encouraging people to cold-shoulder each other

You claimed Hal was engaged in a willful and eager misinterpretation of
your views, I seem to remember that very recently somebody did the same to
Hal. If you give me a minute I can think of his name.

>Without accountability, freedom will die.

Thus I assume you also oppose using a secret ballot in elections.

>Only if those efforts are not about privacy at all, but are
>about paranoic secrecy. Inability to see the difference
>(and there is one) plagues the self righteous.

Yes, there is a difference, but a great debate exists on where that line is.
I think each individual should draw that line for himself, you say our master
should do it for us.

>Not once have I heard a cypherpunk admit the existence of an
>entire class of solutions to the privacy dilemmas we face
>the mutual transparency class, which should be part of any
>mature discussion of these issues.

I can think of yet another entire class of solutions we don't talk about much,
one in which everybody agrees to be a nice person and live in peace love and
happiness. Although this would certainly lead to a wonderful world it's
pointless to talk about because there is obviously no way to implement it.

I find it difficult to take seriously your assertion that The Government is
the most transparent part of society, not with warehouses full of documents
marked "Secret" from the First World War. A transparent society would have
some flaws but I will concede it would have some virtues too. Both are
irrelevant. Politicians and bureaucrats would rather piss on a spark plug
than stand for such a thing. You yourself gave the reason why they would
react to this idea with such horror:

"Every tyranny in history based its power first and foremost on denying
outsiders the ability to see the in-group's machinations."

The great thing about Crypto Anarchy is that it can be implemented, and we
don't need permission from our masters to do so, in fact they have no way to
stop it.

>Now tell me which ancient empire you'd rather have been born in.

I wouldn't trade places with anyone in the past, but enlightened policy
decisions emanating from Washington can't take credit for that, technological
progress can.

>No mass government in all of history has known as much about
>its people as ours does.

The former USSR knew much more about its citizens that the USA government
knows about its people. It knew how much you earned and who you worked for
(the state) it knew what you bought and who you bought it from (the state).
Anything, literally anything, the state didn't know about you it could find
out in very short order, not with a high tech gadget but with a rubber hose.
Please understand, I'm not talking about finding some more raw statistics,
I'm talking about learning about your hopes and dreams and fears and weakness,
the very essence of your being.

>The obvious fact is that there is zero correlation between
>limiting the governments access to information and our

Until now nobody has been very successful in limiting governments access to
information. There is reason to believe that modern technology will change

>it will not matter an iota whether we are all armed with PGP.
>Aristos and bureaucrats will conspire together with impunity,
>and eventually crush us. [...] Almost every time the govt has
>succeeded in making something secret, it has proven to be a

This looks like a contradiction on your part to me. I agree that huge
conspiracies and ironclad secrecy leads to inefficiency because the many
people involved are only allowed to know a tiny part of the puzzle.
The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. This is one reason
governments work so poorly and why their massive conspiracy will be no match
against millions of small but efficient conspiracies.

>PGP is defeated pretty easily by a battering ram and armed
>storm troopers.

And government is defeated pretty easily if it has no money, and if it can't
find your assets it can't extort taxes from you.

John K Clark

Version: 2.6.i