Cryptography and Internet Anonymity

Can you reasonably expect to engage in a lawful and routine business transaction without the government keeping track of your activity?  Do you have the right to expect your email to be as private as paper mail?  The U.S. government is becoming much less timid about reading all internet traffic, ostensibly looking for criminals.

Anonymity is vital to free political speech.  In the first article on this page, Jonathan Wallace says, "Given the importance of anonymity as a component of free speech, the cost of banning anonymous Internet speech would be enormous.  It makes no sense to treat Internet speech differently from printed leaflets or books."

Anonymity is an important part of everyday life and should be carefully protected.  So many people today enjoy the "convenience" of direct deposit, ATMs, and credit cards.  But you'd better enjoy cash while it is still around, because when cash disappears, you can be assured that every time a dollar "changes hands" it will be taxed.

You may also be interested in my page about the USA Patriot Act.



Rolling in their graves:  a history of anonymous speech.  An introduction to the role of anonymous speech in the founding and political progress of the United States.

Anonymity:  Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse.  The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment.

Nameless in Cyberspace:  Anonymity on the Internet.  U.S. and foreign law enforcement authorities continue to regard anonymity as a threat to public order.  Various pending proposals would encourage, or mandate, changes to the infrastructure of the Net that would eliminate it as a medium for anonymous discourse.  (This report is worth examining just for the footnotes.)  [PDF file]

Pentagon drops plan to curb Net anonymity:  A Defense Department agency recently considered  — and rejected  — a far-reaching plan that would sharply curtail online anonymity by tagging e-mail and Web browsing with unique markers for each Internet user.

Kentucky Lawmaker Wants to Make Anonymous Internet Posting Illegal.  Kentucky [Republican] Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.  The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.  Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.

Comments on the article above.  Pretty clearly unconstitutional, see McIntyre v. Ohio Elec. Comm'n (1995) and the cases on which it relies.  Plus of course any such state law would likely violate the dormant Commerce Clause, because it would end up affecting speech throughout the whole nation (given that even national ISPs would have to implement such policies for all their users, because national ISPs "do[] business" in Kentucky).

Full text of the bill,  [DOC format].

Encryption:  Why You Should Use it; Why the Feds Want it Stopped.

Anonymity in America:  Does National Security Preclude It?  Anonymous speech has proud roots stretching to the origins of America.  Gentlemen calling themselves "Publius" wrote the Federalist Papers.  Thomas Paine's Common Sense was signed by "An Englishman."  Today, computer programs that allow us to encrypt emails — to scramble them such that only the intended "key-holding" recipient can decipher the message — represent perhaps the newest incarnation of the old tradition of speaking both freely and anonymously.

Supremes OK Anonymous Free Speech:  In a case pitting the privacy rights of homeowners against the rights of door-to-door solicitors to anonymity and free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a village in eastern Ohio cannot force doorstep canvassers to obtain permits before hawking wares or beliefs.
This is an original compilation, Copyright © 2013 by Andrew K. Dart

FBI Documents on Encryption:  Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained several hundred pages of FBI documents concerning the Clipper Chip and encryption.  Many documents were withheld by the Bureau, and those released are heavily sanitized.  Nonetheless, the released material demonstrates the FBI's belief that federal legislation is required to prohibit the use of encryption products that do not provide law enforcement agencies real-time access to encrypted communications.

CryptoHeaven:  is a user-friendly, no-compromise information-heaven crypto system, where no third parties, including server administrators and others, have access to plain text version of transmitted information.  Information is stored in encrypted form on the server as generated by the client, and only the sender and the recipient possess the keys to gain access to the information.  Having the entire log of all transmissions made and all of the data stored on the server does not give access to the plain text version of information.

Privacy Bill to Reach Beyond the Internet:  Privacy legislation would expand protections to data gathered through non-Internet sources like catalog sales and magazine subscriptions.

Encryption Laws and Public Perceptions: Don't Be Fooled!  Read why the Department of Justice wants a copy of the encryption keys to every computer.

Will anonymous e-mail become a casualty of war?  Tracking down bad guys is good thing. But without anonymity, can free speech and whistle-blowers exist online?

A Quiet Revolution In Money:  The long-predicted "cashless society" has quietly arrived, or nearly so; currency, coins and checks are receding as ways of doing everyday business; we've become Plastic Nation.  In the tangled history of American money — from tobacco receipts to gold and silver coins to paper money and checks — this is a seismic shift.  Time to pay attention.

Privacy Nightmare:  Money That Tracks You:  Imagine currency containing a computer chip that can track where you got your money and where you spend it. U.S. officials are reportedly considering this scheme.

Identity chip raises privacy concerns:  Hitachi has developed a chip that could be woven into paper money to help identify counterfeits, and which could also have wide ramifications for the identification and surveillance technologies.

Users flock to PrivacyX: no-questions e-mail service.

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Updated March 13, 2008.

©2013 by Andrew K. Dart