Ideas for Privacy
Tuesday, September 30, 1997 by Dave Winer.
I've gotten lots of really great mail in reply to Bill Gates on Privacy. Almost everyone is positive about it.
I'm still confused about how it works, but I've had success in sending and reading signed and encrypted messages.
Now I want *everyone* to have a PGP-aware mail program.
Ever the evangelist...
I've learned one important thing, you need a friend to help you get up to speed, so you have someone to try it out with, someone you can send a signed message to, so you can tell if it's working, or not. It's best if your buddy already is using PGP, but it's not necessary. You can learn together.
If everyone who gets up to speed then takes responsibility for getting two more people up the curve it won't take long before everyone is PGPable.
The pointer to the MIT site with the privacy software got wiped in a crash (alpha software!) yesterday, so here it is, in today's piece:
Sorry for the omission!
Charles Fitzgerald, firstname.lastname@example.org, tells a story. "We need a way to get exposure beyond Web denizens into the world the politicos inhabit. Sam Nunn was at a conference last week where he told one of our people 'I'd love to talk more to you computer types, but all you ever want to talk about is crypto.'"
It's a marketing problem.
Susan A. Kitchens, email@example.com, describes the solution.
"The other day, as I was perusing all the 'Chelsea moves in to Stanford' stories that have been surrounding the event, one thing caught my eye -- a statment that Bill Clinton, Chelsea's dad, has been promising to figure out how to use email to correspond with her. I hope he does.
"Naturally, in the wake of the debate on privacy and paparazzi with the death of the Princess of Wales, and the implication for the normal upbringing and college education of a daughter of note, I can see it happen this way:
"Mr. Clinton figures out how to send email to his daughter. Someone starts packet-sniffing for the correspondence. Letters from Dad end up being front page news. Mr. Clinton gets encryption religion."
Ms. Kitchens has a website at http://www.auntialias.com/.
Key point, political celebrities are probably already tuned into the privacy issue, just say the word paparazzi, but we keep talking about cryptography.
This is not a technical issue, it's a human issue. Visions of hackers on virtual motorcycles, prying into Clinton's private email will drive the point home. Stories about bit streams and encryption algorithms make non-technical eyes glaze over.
John Doerr, a longtime DaveNetter, is also friends with Bill Clinton. John, please help Bill get on email. It's worth it.
Finally, from Denise Caruso, firstname.lastname@example.org, a visiting scholar at Interval Research, and a columnist at the New York Times:
"I'm very happy to hear that Bill Gates (or someone with access to his email address, at least) has gotten a wee tad of religion about privacy. I'm also really glad that he has written to you about it.
"I'm a little less happy about the sentence, 'Besides the issues of this making it very difficult for us to sell software ... there is a huge issue of privacy here.' The sentence is perhaps more revelatory than he knows.
"Gates goes on to say, 'For some reason the public isn't hearing about this issue at all. I can't believe there isn't more of an outcry.' Perhaps this is because virtually every corporate executive who speaks out about the encryption debate -- Gates and Barksdale at Netscape are the two that come most immediately to mind -- approaches it from the perspective of 'weak encryption is bad for our business.' Privacy issues, if mentioned at all, are always an afterthought.
"The public at large really couldn't care less about whether companies can sell their software overseas. Why should they care whether Bill Gates or any other executive can increase their net worth? Although the industry's inability to sell encryption products abroad will certainly have an effect on the U.S. population at some point in time, for the majority of us this is a second-order effect.
"As someone who in fact has been trying to bring the encryption debate into the public eye -- most recently in the New York Times, but really in every single publication and in every type of media I've touched for the past 10 years -- I have always found it sadly revealing that protecting corporate self-interest has consistently been more important than protecting civil liberties.
"If Gates wants to put Microsoft's formidable marketing and advertising machine to work and raise public awareness about just how precarious our rights to privacy and security have become under the present U.S. administration, he would be providing a great and critical service not just to our citizenry, but to the rest of the world as well. I know a number of people who would line up to help in any way they can."
Thanks Charles, Susan and Denise!
You are invited to the live discussion tonight at Moscone, part of the Seybold publishing show. 7:30PM. Bring your questions and your opinions. It will be webcast on C|NET if you can't be there, thanks to Brian Cooley and Dan Shafer.
All the info you need is on the Scripting News home page today. I hope you can be there!
PS: I'd sign every DaveNet piece if Eudora had a scripting interface for signatures. It's too much work to manually sign every piece of outgoing email.