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Danger Lampost

Futurist & Technology Consultant,


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Should private citizens be allowed to set up public servers that allow anyone to securely hide any information from every government?

Those familiar with the TOR network are familiar with this issue, or you may be familiar with this issue if you remember the history of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) and our government's attempts to prevent Philip R. Zimmermann from publishing a computer algorithm.

The technology is here, so this debate is not hypothetical. Should I be allowed to set up a network of servers that allows people to upload and share information securely, in such a way that it is technically impossible for any government to ever access the information without the secure passwords of the information owners?

Or should our government *always* be allowed to access any data, hopefully with a search warrant if required?

There are hybrid possibilities (based on Shamir's aglorithm for the technical), that would create digital key escrows, allowing government to view anything but only after retrieving 2 or more keys from an escrow service. At this point, you are only as secure as your escrow service though.

So should such a service be allowed to exist?


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  • Oct 24 2012: IMO, the only part of this question that is questionable is the word public.

    People are already doing this privately; it cannot be prevented. Terrorists can encrypt information without using public servers. Computers can still use modems to form direct telephone connections without using the internet.

    Should the government always have access? This question seems unAmerican. Historically, we have held the opinion that the government itself is the primary threat to our freedoms. I still think so. The government is involved with PUBLIC stuff, not PRIVATE stuff. With cameras and microphones everywhere, there is precious little privacy left.
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      Oct 24 2012: I pretty much agree with you, except for the part about my question being unAmerican. I was hoping it was just the opposite! Hopefully you mean that the very idea that the government should always have access is unAmerican? I agree with that!

      With respect to using modems and direct telephone connections, are you implying that telephone connections are more secure than Internet connections? I don't think that's the case.

      Unless terrorists really know what they're doing, it is very difficult to encrypt information in such a way that it is truly secure. A public service that was provably secure would level the playing field.
    • Oct 24 2012: "This question seems unAmerican. Historically, we have held the opinion that the government itself is the primary threat to our freedoms."

      I'm sure that argument carries a lot of weight in other, less paranoid countries...

      The answer to Lampost's question has to be universally applicable, based on reason and logic, not local sentiments. There are plenty of valid reasons why governments shouldn't have the right to monitor everything.
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        Oct 24 2012: Technically, Barry is correct in his statement, John. Our Constitution was formulated to prevent the government from having undue control over it's citizens. It was a totally new concept compared to what the "revolutionists" left England for in the first place.

        What appears to have happened though in the course of our history is that the citizens have lost sight that it needs to be a two-way street if it is going to work. Many of our own citizens think many of their freedoms are unlimited (or should be). The Constitution never granted unlimited freedom to anybody.

        Doesn't matter if the restriction of somebody's freedoms comes from the government or an attempt by another citizen to do it. Unless you want each citizen to be "The Enforcer" for every other citizen, you need government support and their ability to prevent the citizen-to-citizen restrictions to freedoms from happening. And the ability to make sure no "outside the country" entity can destroy the country (which would include the citizens of that country) too.

        Simply stated...somebody has to be "in charge" of any organization tasked with preserving the country in the first place in the areas of security, defense, freedom, etc. The citizens should try to make sure the government isn't the one restricting the freedoms of course. But they can't expect the government to do that across the board if they also insist on tying the hands of the government so much that it can't be done.

        As long as the citizens think the ONLY part of the organization that has corrupt people in it is the government, there is a real problem. The citizens themselves are part of the organization, and there are corrupt ones in its own "group" too. For a variety of different reasons...not just "business".

        I don't believe in giving ANYBODY a "blank check" to do as they please. Government NOR the citizens. Or in the case of the topic question...The Public.

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