[funsec] infosec and human rights

Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Hannah rMslade at shaw.ca
Wed Apr 19 18:32:10 CDT 2006

From:           	Mark Carey-Smith <m.careysmith at student.qut.edu.au>
Date sent:      	Wed, 19 Apr 2006 12:52:37 +1000 (EST)

> My reason for posting to the list is to ask if anyone has any brilliant ideas
> they'd like to share with me on this topic? Possible directions, information I
> should know etc. would be great.

Well, I dunno about brilliant, but some of the positions:

The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it
                                     - John Gilmore

You have zero privacy anyway - Get over it.     - Scott McNealy, Sun

A very thought provoking book, inverting most of the normal ways of looking at 
things, is:


"The Transparent Society", David Brin, 1998, 0-201-32802-X,
%A   David Brin
%C   P.O. Box 520, 26 Prince Andrew Place, Don Mills, Ontario M3C 2T8
%D   1998
%G   0-201-32802-X
%I   Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.
%O   U$25.00/C$34.95 416-447-5101 fax: 416-443-0948 bkexpress at aw.com
%O  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/020132802X/robsladesinterne
%P   378 p.
%T   "The Transparent Society"

As the author points out, this book will probably be shelved alongside
texts on privacy.  It is, however, more properly about candour.  I
find, therefore, that I must make an admission of a rather important
bias.  Despite being considered by some to be a security expert, I
have never had any particular interest in the practice of privacy and
confidentiality.  I am much more interested in openness.

Part one looks at the new transparent world as access to all kinds of
information increases.  Chapter one points out that the time to
discuss whether we want technology or privacy has passed: technology
is here, and it *will* provide access to information, and erode
privacy, whether we like it or not.  Brin does suggest that we still
have a choice about the management of that technology.  Do we want to
have all data available only to a select few (such as the government),
or all data available to everyone?  The "information age" is reviewed
in chapter two, but there is also a very interesting examination of
the possibility of the resurgence of amateur scholarship.  Various
current invasions of, and attacks on, privacy are discussed in chapter
three.  In response to these, and in opposition to the usual calls for
more legislated protections on privacy, Brin proposes reciprocal
transparency: everyone who wants to collect information on the public
must make the same information about themselves publicly available. 
Chapter four raises an extremely interesting point in relation to
copyright, patent, and other legal restrictions on intellectual
property, and the fact that the information age seems to have so much
trouble with it.  Transparency initially seems to threaten to totally
destroy the idea of copyright, but ultimately may present a unique
solution to maintaining its proper function.

Part two looks at those problems involved in an open society.  Chapter
five presents some of the arguments that should be reviewed, from the
toxicity of ideas to the irony of western civilization's delight in
individualism.  The inherent benefits of accountability are reiterated
in chapter six, although with less eloquence and insight than earlier
text displayed.  The encryption debate is a convoluted one, and is
fairly, but rather unclearly, portrayed in chapter seven.  The general
tone of most of the book is libertarian, so the author does not seem
to be completely comfortable with arguing against the merits of
confidentiality of communications.  It is, however, ironic that Brin
does not report the later research of Dorothy Denning that indicates
law enforcement agencies really do not need the ability to break
encryption, since in an odd way it strengthens his central thesis.

Part three proposes some means of achieving an open society.  Chapter
eight reviews a number of tools for transparency, but manages to look
ragged and disorganized.  Some future technological "tools races" are
described with a bit more coherence in chapter nine.  The various
arguments in favour of openness are extended, in chapter ten, to the
international arena.  Chapter eleven closes off with a summation of
the rest of the book.

Since Brin is well known as a popularizer of science and as a science
fiction writer, and since his scientific training is not in the field
of information technology it would be easy to see this book as yet
another attempt by someone to trade on a reputation and a currently
popular field in order to make a few bucks with minimal effort and
thought.  Although his writing background has helped to produce a text
that is easily readable, the work is informed by a thorough
understanding of the issues and technologies, and also leavened with
insight and wit.  Unfortunately, most of the really good stuff comes
in the first four chapters, leaving the rest of the volume somewhat

The book is both reasonable and provocative, and makes an interesting
counterpoint to much of the current discussion of privacy and
technology.  Discussions of the important topics of privacy and
encryption are both balanced and quite complete, providing those near
to the fields with a useful primer.  In addition, Brin's more
controversial points are well taken, and deserve serious

copyright Robert M. Slade, 1998   BKTRASOC.RVW   980919

======================  (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
rslade at vcn.bc.ca      slade at victoria.tc.ca      rslade at sun.soci.niu.edu
Blessed are they who have nothing to say and who cannot be
persuaded to say it.                          - James Russell Lowell

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