Anonymity and the internet

zodiac zodiac at
Mon May 27 05:51:30 MDT 1996

Paul Gallagher writes:

>Zeynep Tufekcioglu and others have pointed out that using aliases won't
>protect you from the FBI.

I take it that "others" refers to me.

>True, but they shouldn't mock the importance of anonymity of the

Who is "mocking" it? Could you provide a specific quote?

I know I haven't "mocked" anonymous posting, nor has my fellow Zed-person.
I appeared on national TV defending the right to post anonymously -- when
the Canadian Information Highway Advisory Council (IHAC) delivered in Sept
1995 a report calling for an end to anonymous posting. There are all kinds
of reasons to protect _real_ anonymity. (But IHAC is composed of 20-odd
assholes who didn't even know how to use email when they were appointed to
it by the feds.)

Anonymous posting is very important in the same way that the right to
poster the streets is important.

For some reason, you are extrapolating point 1 into point 2:

    1. Posting repeated presents constant signal and makes one easy to

    2. All anonymous posting is bad.

How, exactly, do you get from 1 to 2?

>Encryption and anonymous remailing services offer very good
>protection, and aliases offer some protection from harassment.

1. ENCRYPTION. Zeynep explicityly pointed out some public encryption is
good. Reread her post. If you worry about some of these being NSA-style
fakes, with built-in backdoors, use PGP (Pretty Good Encryption). It was
designed by US activist Phil Zimmerman. Phil is very honest person,
humble, he sure seems trustworthy. By giving away free his PGP software
(during the Gulf War, when an anti-terrorism pro-COINTELPRO bill was being
discussed, if memory serves), he earned the eternal wrath of the US
federal cops. (They have a file on him a mile high and follow him around.)

However, that's all besides the point since Quispe-thing and MIM ain't
using PGP.

2. ANONYMOUS REMAILERS: These are increasingly useless, as you point out
about Julf's infamous remailer in Finland. For years people kept
predicting Julf's server would one day fall, and he kept telling them he
would not protect anyone if a warrant was served, etc. -- and, lo, boom,
it was forced by the police to cough up its log files, to trace people
using anonymous mail. These things are only useful now, in _truly_ illegal
activities, if they are part of a long chain of deceptions. They are just
a fun way to make the lives of real net cops more difficult.

Of course, is hardly secure. If I had to think of 10 US servers
to target, it would probably be in that list. Talking about setting all
your ducks in a row. The net is far better suited for guerrilla tactics.

>But most harassment is much less sophisticated. People
>frequently receive threats of various kinds.  I've seen cases where
>one poster reports another to the police or the Secret Service.  For
>example, posters who jokingly discussed ways to kill Bush in order to
>make Quayle President, received a visit from the Secret Service when
>another Usenet reader reported them.  Another poster who in a moment
>of anger wished Governor Wilson of California dead, also was visited
>by the police, again reported by another Usenet reader.  People
>who support gun control frequently receive death threats by e-mail,
>often containing detailed personal information, indicating that the
>threat may be more than idle.

Right now, there is a Texas college student charged with terrorism by
California senator Tim Leslie. Leslie wants to permit the fun hunting of
mountain lions. The student didn't like that, and suggested people should
instead hunt Leslie and stuff and display his carcass. Leslie had the kid

The kid who sent Clinton a death threat in fall 94 thought he had all his
bases covered, but the SS found him in a day or two. The SS looked at the
header, saw the source, went to the source, opened the log files, saw the
accounts in use, etc.

It doesn't work unless you use several jumps and are an accomplished
phreaker atop it. Zeynep hinted at this when she mentioned cell phones.
You can get bogus chips that constantly generate a different signal each
use. You will read about these chip shops getting raided every six months
or so in the mainstream press.

>In short, declining to give your name won't protect you
>from the determined efforts of the state, but it will protect you
>from some of your fellow internet users.

... like supporters of s00per-revolutionary organizations. Exactly the


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