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Anonymity, political expression, and anti-spam bills
from TBTF for 1997-05-22



Legislation has been introduced into both houses of Congress to ban or limit email spam. Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. The following thread from an ongoing debate was carried yesterday on Declan McCullagh's fight-censorship mailing list (see Sources for subscription information).


Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 19:52:22 -0400
To: fight-censorship-announce@vorlon.mit.edu
From: Declan McCullagh 

Subject: FC: Anonymity, political expression, and anti-spam bills

[This is shaping up to be one of the next big debates about free speech
online. Sure, everyone but Sanford Wallace wants to ban spam from the Net.
But the questions remain: who should do it, how should it be done, and how
to do it without sweeping in "legitimate" speech? --Declan]

***********

[Tom is quoting from one of the recent anti-spam bills. --Declan]

Subject: Re: Anonymity and CAUCE amendment
Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 14:42:55 -0400
From: Thomas Grant Edwards 

>> (C) TO USE A COMPUTER OR OTHER ELECTRONIC DEVICE
>>     TO DIRECT ANY COMMERCIAL MESSAGE TO A COMPUTER OR
>>     COMPUTER NETWORK ADDRESS UNLESS SUCH PERSON
>>     CLEARLY MARKS, AT THE TOP OR BOTTOM OF THE
>>     MESSAGE, THE DATE AND TIME IT IS SENT, THE NAME OF
>>     THE BUSINESS, OTHER ENTITY, OR INDIVIDUAL SENDING
>>     THE MESSAGE AND AN ELECTRONIC MAIL ADDRESS OF SUCH
>>     BUSINESS, OTHER ENTITY, OR INDIVIDUAL.

The above amendment _also_ applies to consumers.  That is, you will
not be able to send email to purchase something without identifying
yourself and your email address.  Slight privacy concern.

-Thomas

***********

Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 14:37:38 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Brock N. Meeks" 
Subject: Re: Anonymity and CAUCE amendment

> The above amendment _also_ applies to consumers.  That is, you will
> not be able to send email to purchase something without identifying
> yourself and your email address.  Slight privacy concern.

Which begs the question: if you want to buy something, how exactly does
one do that without providing payment information, a name and an address
where to send it.

***********

Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 18:04:04 -0400 (EDT)
From: Declan McCullagh 

Ray and I spent a few hours arguing about spam-legislation this afternoon,
so I won't rehash arguments here.

But to answer Brock's question: how about mail saying "send $10 in ecash
to anon@anon.com to purchase a shareware program". That address could be a
frontend to an encrypted remailer chain. Over time, anon@anon.com might
build up a reputation even though the account is pseudonymous; that's what
individuals have done on cypherpunks, for example. anon@anon.com's
products could even be certified by U.L. or other rating agencies.

In other words, commercial transactions can happen anonymously.

-Declan

***********

Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 18:23:11 -0500
From: Marc Rotenberg 

In answer to Brock's question, the solution is Identity
Escrow Agents, which is an escrow concept this privacy
advocate endorses. There is no reason that techniques
could not be developed to facilitate anonymous delivery
of goods. First Virtual is already looking into this. And
Amazon customers are essentially anonymous to the Amazon
Affiliates who sold the books.

The hard question is whether there is a right of anonymity
for commercial speech. I'll say "no" and take the criticisms.
But I'll also point out that we are strongly in favor of
protecting the right of anonymity for political speech and
promoting anonymous payment systems of all types.

And to save someone a line of type:

   But, Marc, how do you distinguish between "commercial
   speech" and "political speech."

That's the next hard question.

Marc Rotenberg
EPIC.

***********

Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 15:58:03 -0700 (PDT)
From: Declan McCullagh 

I don't think we can distinguish in a meaningful way between commercial
speech and political speech. That is, I don't think Congress can ban one
and not impact the other. The Net makes it harder to continue treating the
two differently.

After all, are my Netly News columns on Time-Warner's pathfinder.com site
political speech? Commercial speech? If I endorse a product? If I endorse
a political candidate? What if we started charging two cents of ecash per
article?

I spent some time today talking with anti-spam advocates during and after
their press conference by the Capitol building. Their assumption is that
anonymous speech generally has little value, and anonymous commercial
speech none. I think it is important to question that assumption.

-Declan

***********

From: Hallam-Baker 
Subject: Delivery escrow agents
Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 19:04:48 -0400 (EDT)

> In answer to Brock's question, the solution is Identity
> Escrow Agents, which is an escrow concept this privacy
> advocate endorses. There is no reason that techniques
> could not be developed to facilitate anonymous delivery
> of goods. First Virtual is already looking into this. And
> Amazon customers are essentially anonymous to the Amazon
> Affiliates who sold the books.

I think they will have problems for precisely the reason why I
like the idea. Genuine identity escrow would allow free arbitrage
of goods across international borders. A Pentium Pro PC costs $3K
in the US and $6K if is is available in Europe. When I lived in
the UK we would regularly fact the cost of an airfare into the
price of a new machine. Even with customs duties one was well
ahead.

Of course the manufacturers who insist on maintaining differential
pricing will fight to prevent this happening. Microsoft refuses to
allow its US products to be sold outside the US. The reason being
that the foreign prices are extortionate - like how long does it
take to translate Microsoft office into English?


Fed Ex and the other major shippers might be persuaded to establish
identity escrow delivery. It would be a major advantage for people
like myself who have to keep their address secret for security
reasons. Similarly it would be useful for people who move from one
place to another and want packages to automatically be sent to their
current address.

The way the system would work is essentially like the Post Office
box system except that instead of delivering to a box number they
would deliver to an address stored in their central computer. The
customer could change their address at will through an interface
protected by digital signatures. Essentially it would be a "delivery
account" allowing them to see the current state of shipping of
all their many packages. Perfect for a business. They can even be
notified in advance that the Fed-Ex man is to call and tell them
that they will not be there at a particular time or have it delivered
next door. If they happen to go abroad they can fill in the customs
form and pay additional dues online.

The merchant meanwhile benefits because the account is certified as
belonging to the credit card holder. I originally thought up the
scheme while trying to work out how to make the card payment system
more secure.

Incidentally, if Fed-Ex or their associates are listening I can elaborate
on the scheme at great length. I think there are a number of additional
opportunities that could be explored but I would need to know more about
the internal constraints, I may be making incorrect assumptions about
their infrastructure.

        Phill

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