Clipper (Re: Dorothy Denning)

W. Kinney kinney at bogart.Colorado.EDU
Wed Mar 2 14:46:42 PST 1994


I write:

> I think this is very perceptive. Clipper is perhaps the best
> they could _think_ of given an outmoded set of axioms.

Bill Stewart writes:

>I disagree.  My opinion is that the axioms involved are
>1) We're in power, and want to stay there.
>2) Some kinds of technology greatly enhance our power if we control them.
>3) Crypto Technology is a major threat to our power unless we control it.

Looks to me like we substantially agree with one another, actually.

I might, however, throw out an additional concept, which, to me at least, 
is a very significant consideration. The basic reasoning of our government 
with regard to individual rights has always been that rights are agreed on 
by society as a whole, and one of the social roles of government is to act 
both as protector and _arbiter_ of those rights. I think this shows through 
every time somebody talks about "trade-offs" -- this is government acting 
as arbiter, trying to enforce an assumed role as the body charged with 
deciding what rights _mean_ in a practical social context.

Under many circumstances, this is an appropriate role: the government acts 
to protect free speech more often than it acts to suppress it, for 
instance. But the spooky illogic of Clipper comes, I think, from this model 
of rights as things the government can, but doesn't take away from its 
citizens. Cryptography breaks this paradigm, because privacy becomes 
something posessed by the citizen independent of the government's good 
will. Clipper is an effort to restore the traditional paradigm, to return 
the government quite literally to its traditional role of "keeper of the 
keys". It is a failure to recognize that the rules of the world are 
changing, and a failure to adapt.

This is more frightening in a lot of ways than any "Nixon-esque" intrigue 
could ever be.

                                -- Will

Version: 2.3


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