X-Message-Number: 6356
From:  (David Stodolsky)
Subject: Fwd: Publishing on the net and old usenet postings
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 96 11:49:13 +0200

Forward of letter <> from  (PRIVACY 

Date:    Sat, 8 Jun 1996 23:02:30 +0200
From:     (ReindeR Rustema)
Subject: Publishing on the net and old usenet postings

Currently I'm writing something for school about Privacy and the internet.
Most literature on the matter is about encryption of e-mail messages and
similar concerns. Encryption is seen as *the* solution for the protection
of privacy.

For protection of e-mail that might be fine, but what about Usenet or
personal homepages? It's now possible for anybody to publish anything about
anybody else. By doing so, possibly deliberately or undeliberately invading
somebody else's privacy. Journalists and other professionals usually have
some kind of ethical code concering the publishing of information about
individuals. They have a certain accountability to the code to stay in the
profession. For individuals this is not the case, besides netiquette

I explain in my paper that the inherent morale of the digital technique is
that it'll register everything and it won't forget. What will happen with
your 5 year old usenet postings is beyond your reach. With a search engine
like DejaNews it's possible to trace back all old postings from somebody.
While you're in one posting more or less anonimously giving away real
private information, in another 3 year old posting selling a computer you
might have given your phonenumber or more. Besides postings to usenet
people also leave info by signing guestbooks on webpages etc.

The digital technology makes everybody sort of transparent because you can
combine all different data on somebody. While the whole idea of privacy
rests on respect for the autonomy of a humanbeing, that people decide for
themselves what kind of info they pass on and what not.

I can't undo everything I did on the net the last couple of years, but my
future employer will be able to read most of it though...

Off course, you can ask DejaNews to make yourself unlisted completely but I
don't want that. I want people to read my postings (and find them back
using DejaNews perhaps) but it's the fact that everything is presented
combined together what's scary. Besides DejaNews you can also use Altavista
or other devices off course.

Anonymous remailers are not a perfect solution either because you'd have to
use them allways. And you'd allways have to take different identities. Just
one anonymous digital identity won't do since it will be internally
consistent. Only one reference to the real identity would blow it apart and
a missing link is easily typed in the heat of a usenet discussion for
example. Not everybody is such a good actor or would want to bother about
it to keep up the appearances of another identity.

And besides, most of the time you don't want to hide behind an anonymous
identity. This message is a good example.

It seems that some people's dogma:

  * "Our lives will inevitably become visible to others, so the
     real issue is mutual visibility, achieving a balance of power
     by enabling us to watch the people who are watching us."

all ready became true. I don't have a problem really with the fact that all
about me becomes visible to others. It's just that I'd rather not see *all*
available to *everybody*.

Did we create with the internet a sort of Frankenstein that will come back
to haunt us? :-)

vriendelijke groeten,

(student in communications, University of Amsterdam)


Date:    Sat, 08 Jun 96 16:17:21 PDT
From:     (Lauren Weinstein; PRIVACY Forum Moderator)
Subject: Re: Publishing on the net and old usenet postings 

This is an extremly significant topic, and one I discuss frequently.  Having
been writing publicly via ARPANET/Internet since the early 70's, there is a
vast quantity of my writings and public messages now online, going back to my
college days at UCLA.  I don't feel uncomfortable with any of it being out
there, since in general I always figured I was writing to a public audience
and that public meant *public*--forever.  Is availability of the archived
public materials really a problem in and of itself?  I personally I don't so.

It seems likely that persons who don't feel comfortable with their public
writings being permanently archived and available will need to decide if
they want to write publicly on the Internet (or similar venues) in the first
place.  It's much the same as politicians, judges, and others who find their
early speeches and writings scrutinized when they come up for new offices or
appointments.  Such processes have been going on for a very long time,
though without a doubt the vast increases in online storage capacity,
advanced search engines, and similar technological developments have brought
the cost to perform amazingly detailed seaches regarding anyone's public
writings on the Internet (or many other places) down close to zero.

One problem is that many persons new to these systems simply don't realize
that their public writings (and most private email) on the net are routinely
archived (the former for later public access, the latter typically only for
system backup purposes, not for public availability!).  Many new users are
still thinking in terms of personal telephone calls, which normally don't
have a prolonged existence.  Education of users as to the possible
ramifications of public statements on the network is key to helping resolve
these concerns.

Issues of misinformation, propaganda, libel, etc. (and the ability of any
misinformation or other lies to stay around "forever" on the net) are a
different matter and a terribly serious one, but no non-draconian solutions
are obvious.  The essential character of the Internet, allowing individuals
to potentially reach masses of persons (very cheaply--or free) without
intervening truthfulness, sanity, reality, editorial, or other checks, is
something the world has never seen before. 

I am not convinced that truth will necessarily overcome lies in this
regard.  Persons whose goal is to spread misinformation are usually much
more willing to saturate the net with their materials in an abusive manner
than would be the target of such actions with a rebuttal.  The result--the
original misinformation is much more widespread, probably more memorable for
being inflammatory in the first place, and may well show up in later
searches without any rebuttal attached.  But are there solutions that
wouldn't entail egregious free speech limitations?  I hope so.  Probably the
worst scenarios involve "anonymous" attacks, where existing libel laws--one
of the few legal remedies available, can be rendered impotent.

Many of us who were on the net starting in the earliest ARPANET days
recognized the potential power of the medium even then, even with the
relatively tiny and highly skewed (toward high-level technical individuals
at a very limited number of locations) user community of the time.  But it
*was* a very small community by today's standards, and we knew that with
very few exceptions nobody in the community would be abusive.

I don't think that any of us really anticipated the explosive growth and
infrastructural changes that would very suddenly place these tools, grown by
orders of magnitude in their reach, speed, and influence, but still
much the same as our original designs in many fundamental aspects, in
the hands of essentially the entire world's population.  But the genie is
most certainly out of the bottle, and our goal now must be to do our utmost
to try steer the almost unimaginable forces unleashed towards good, however
challenging the task, and however many setbacks we might endure.  There are
no guarantees of success by any means.  But it should be interesting.



David S. Stodolsky      PGP KeyID: B830DF31       
    Tel.: +45 38 33 03 30    Fax: +45 38 33 88 80

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