Seven days

mattd mattd at
Sat Oct 6 15:20:20 PDT 2001

>Envelope-to: mattd at
>X-Sender: mattd at
>X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 5.0
>Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2001 06:40:56 +1000
>To: mattd at
>From: mattd <mattd at>
>Subject: inneresting tale
>Liberty and safety in conflict
>Tuesday 04 September, 2001
>Between them, the views of engineer Dave Farber and columnist Dan Gillmor 
>reach into the homes, coding dens and boardrooms of the people who build 
>the technology that surrounds us.
>The trends they see fill them with deep disquiet, tinged with some hope of 
>a better future. And by some cosmic coincidence, they were brought 
>together last week, holidaying at adjacent hotels just up the road from 
>the Opera House in Sydney.
>"The enabling of retro-active ethics generated by these enormous files of 
>information are just dangerous, dangerous to a free society," Farber says 
>of the accumulation of private details in huge databases. "Because some 
>day you could run into a person who knew how to use them: a government, a 
>He says one way to protect our privacy would be the use of digital rights 
>management technology, which, under international copyright laws, makes it 
>a criminal offence for anyone to break. Despite this, the US Digital 
>Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), to which our own Digital Agenda Bill 
>strikes an uncanny resemblance, is "asinine" and "encourages sloppiness" 
>in crypto systems, he says.
>"That (DMCA) law is incredibly damaging ... to just about every part of 
>the Bill of Rights," Farber says. " It's sufficiently asinine so it will 
>probably be struck down.
>"If I were a country who isn't committed to it, I would start thinking, 
>well, what are you trying to protect?
>"(You) will have the cost transferred from the company to law enforcement. 
>I would look very, very carefully at what you're buying for that and what 
>you're losing. I think you lose too much."
>Gillmor, on a mission to "excise" Microsoft from his personal life, 
>recommends people wait until next year to buy a new PC. At home he runs a 
>Mac, mostly for his music, which he once played professionally, and Sun's 
>StarOffice on Linux to write his IT column.
>"... (This) is not the news the industry wants, but ... I would wait until 
>probably March until I bought a new computer system ... with (Windows) XP 
>on it because I would not be very trusting of its reliability."
>Farber is blunt: "Don't touch it".
>"It's different to (Windows XP) Professional; fundamentally different," 
>Farber says. "Apparently, it's a bad scene ... and if you look in the 
>manual, you cannot upgrade from Home to Professional. And that's sort of 
>While others claim to be Father of the Internet, Farber, the Alfred Fitler 
>Moore Professor of Telecommunications at the University of Pennsylvania, 
>could at least claim to be its eccentric uncle. This elder statesman of 
>the digital age was the primary thesis adviser to Jon Postel, who died in 
>1998, who authored the first handbooks for driving the Internet: the RFC 
>or Requests for Comment series. He has been labelled "powerful" and 
>"visionary" by industry sources. But when Farber talks in his broad New 
>Jersey accent, geeks, suits and silks do listen, as happened when he 
>witnessed in the Microsoft anti-trust trial and when he was the US Federal 
>Communications Commission chief technologist. Moderated postings to his 
>Interesting People e-mail list go to more than 25,000 subscribers several 
>times a day.
>Gillmor's column in Silicon Valley's local newspaper, San Jose's Mercury 
>News, and his online weblog at, poke fun and a dose of 
>serious inquiry at the heart of the IT industry. "Desktop computing has 
>been emptied of innovation because people realised there's no way to make 
>money out of it, so it's all moved to the new platforms, which is the 
>Internet, which is the one thing so far Microsoft doesn't control," he says.
>Farber greets with a homemade business card, printed on a budget inkjet 
>printer, which bears his caricature. He answers his mobile phone with a 
>snapped "Dave", and delights in unique turns of phrase that one day should 
>be gathered into a FAQ for posterity.
>His favorite quote is from US revolutionary, inventor and Declaration of 
>Independence signatory Benjamin Franklin: "They that can give up essential 
>liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor 
>"I put myself now in the future and I say if you had a rational 
>(anti-communist US Senator) Joe McCarthy who wasn't drunk all the time, 
>what could he do in the current world? Phenomenal," Farber says.
>"He wouldn't have to say with a haze: `Did you ever meet ...?' He could 
>now say: `You traded electronic mail; you visited this website', which is 
>now 20 years later declared subversive."
>He fears the technology being invented at the world's research institutes 
>will be turned on its creators and the rest of us.
>"At a certain company in Redmond, I said a good idea was to read two 
>books," Farber says. "One is one of my favorites (Neal Stephenson's), 
>Snowcrash. The other is re-read (George Orwell's) 1984 and make sure 
>you're not putting in everything necessary to make that happen."
>Gillmor has concerns about Microsoft's push to control the Internet 
>through its .NET initiative, and believes recent attempts by the Linux 
>GNOME user interface founder, Miguel de Icaza, to support it are "naive".
>"My chief concern on .NET right now is the authentication structure that 
>requires the use of Passport, which is completely undocumented technology 
>and completely proprietary and the only allowed authentication system," 
>Gillmor says.
>He says individuals should "triangulate" to subvert the influence of big 
>companies. His personal computer is a Mac, he uses the services of the US 
>number-three ISP, and gets his pay-TV from satellite rather than the 
>dominant cable operator.
>"It would be helpful for everybody if lots of people made decisions not 
>solely based on what's the easiest thing to do today," Gillmor says.
>"My deepest worry is citizens have actually concluded they're willing to 
>sacrifice their liberty for this illusion of safety."
>Farber: "Someone sent me a note saying, `You know, Australia was very 
>lucky; they sent you (the US) the Puritans and us the criminals'.
>"Sounds like you've got a lot of Puritans also."
>LINKS Dave Farber -
>Dan's column -

More information about the cypherpunks-legacy mailing list