Re: Is Anonymous E-Cash Dead?

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Sun Jul 16 2000 - 20:50:57 MDT

Anonymous e-cash is, indeed, dead... but I have hope that it will be

The most potent e-cash system was invented by David Chaum. It died
when he decided that his anonymous e-cash program would be the ticket
to making him rich. (Of course, those who understand e-cash realize
that it's not a way to get rich; it's a way to provide unmatched
benefits to consumers. But I digress.) He patented blind signatures,
the process of writing your signature on something you can't read.
This allowed entities who functioned as "banks" to sign money orders
without reading the order. That way, you could later present the bank
with a signed money order, and the bank would have no way of telling
from whom you got the money. You could easily send the money orders
via e-mail. He also patented a mechanism to prevent people from
trying to reuse money orders they've already spent. He then signed up
with one tiny bank in Louisiana, and, with all the naivete you might
expect from a man who spends lots of time thinking about encryption
protocols, started his proprietary Digicash system, expecting the
world to beat a path to his door.

To his surprise, they didn't. Oddly enough, people didn't want to buy
and trade currency that they could only use at one bank, and which
almost no merchants would accept. Nor would merchants accept the
currency when they had to pay Digicash money and retool their
already-working credit card payment systems in order to accept it.

Anyway, Chaum's patent will run out in a few years. At that time,
expect to see a free version of Chaum's Digicash system proliferating;
one that anybody can download and use. You can even be your own
"bank" (in the Digicash sense) simply by proving that you have some
money and publicly signing an agreement to transfer that money to
anyone presenting you with a valid coin.

An interesting point to note is that e-cash does NOT have to die
simply because governments pass laws saying that overseas transfers of
money may not be anonymous. If Alice in America wants to send money
to Bob in Britain anonymously, she can use something analogous to a
cypherpunk remailer system. Alice sends e-cash to her "bank" in
America, along with instructions to send that e-cash onwards to Bob's
(pseudonymous, if neccesary) address in Britain. That American bank
knows the identity of a bank in Britain, and legally sends the money
to the British bank, along with Alice's instructions to send e-cash to
Bob's address. The British bank receives the e-cash and sends e-cash
to Bob.

Of course, governments *could* make this system illegal by saying that
NO transfers of money may be anonymous, overseas or not. Of course,
they'd never do that, right?


      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings

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