Michael Wilson Thesis
jdb10987 at yahoo.com
Sat Jun 27 14:02:33 PDT 2020
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"As the political and legal battles of the first ‘crypto-war’ were heating up in the1990’s, the technologist and activist Timothy C. May (1992) authored the CryptoAnarchist Manifesto. The manifesto proclaims cryptographic software “will altercompletely the nature of government regulation, the ability to tax and controleconomic interactions, the ability to keep information secret, and will even alter thenature of trust and reputation” while also recognising the potential that “crypto anarchywill allow national secrets to be trade freely and will allow illicit and stolen materialsto be traded… an anonymous computerized market will even make possible abhorrentmarkets for assassinations and extortion” (May, 1992, paras. 1, 3). Similarly,prominent crypto-anarchist Jim Bell (1996) published the tenth (and final) volume of 78his essay Assassination Politics in 1996, where he argued for an online assassinationmarket as a tool of social control in service of the comparatively powerless. The ideawas that citizens could use cryptography to mask their identities to place ‘bets’ on thetime of death of public officials and business leaders. The logic is that everyone whois willing to contribute to a bounty will place a ‘bet’ on the time of death, while the‘winner’ would be the person who conducts the assassination via their foreknowledgeof the time of death. The proposal attests to how the politics of privacy protection wereparticularly controversial during the 1990s.
It is for this reason that the ‘crypto-war’ was so fiercely fought on both sides,prompted by the initial release of public key encryption to members of the public.Following the Second World War, cryptographic software was legally classified as amunition and subject to strict regulation and export controls (Levin, 1998, p. 532). Bythe early 1990s, the NSA was attempting to install a ‘Clipper Chip’ within telephones,to provide the US Government with ‘backdoor’ access to encrypted communications(Froomkin, 1995, p. 745). As a result of the proposal, technologist Philip Zimmermanpublished public-key encryption tool Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) via file-sharingservices in June of 1991. Characteristic of crypto-anarchists of the time, Zimmerman(1994) published PGP’s code in a physical book titled PGP Source Code and Internals,so the technology could be discretely distributed. As Zimmerman (1994, para. 3)observes in the foreword of the book, “cryptography is a surprisingly politicaltechnology.” By publishing the code, Zimmerman became the subject of aninvestigation by the US Customs Service examining whether he had violated the USArms Export Control Act (1976), although the case was dropped in 1996 withoutexplanation (Lauzon, 1998, p. 1327). The release of public-key encryption technologythus empowered ordinary users to protect their privacy. 79The popularity and development of such privacy-enhancing technologies hasincreased significantly since the ‘crypto-war’ of the 1990s. Tracking the trends in theirdevelopment during the decade from 1997, Goldberg (2007, p. 11) observes how thethen-recently developed Tor Browser was exponentially growing in popularity.Similarly, in response to growing awareness about mass surveillance, the CryptoPartymovement was established in 2011 to educate the public about cryptographic software.The decentralized movement promotes “crypto parties” where experts educate citizensabout encryption and digital anonymity. In this vein, they are a type of informationsecurity workshop (e.g. Albrechtsen & Hovden, 2010). Data provided by the TorProject (2018) highlights how the number of publicly52 connecting users increased sixfold after the Snowden Disclosures in June 2013. Subsequent studies suggest some ofthis increase was attributable to a Ukrainian botnet connecting to the network (Gehl,2016, p. 1223), however there has been a sustained two-fold increase (amounting to atleast two million daily users) on the network (Tor Project, 2018). Evidently, suchprivacy-enhancing technologies are becoming increasingly popular.
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