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Re: making mail traceable

2004-01-19 11:44:48

Keith, I fear you're still fighting last year's battle when you write:

Also, for lots of reasons I don't think that giving law enforcement a way to track down spammers is a desirable way to solve the spam problem. It would get the government too involved in mediating people's communications, it would invite favoritism, it would require too many LE resources, and for that reason it would be hard to limit abuse. I'd far rather find a way for the net to be self-policing by....

I don't find it desirable either, and I too would rather have seen the community find a self-policing solution. (For the record, I would also prefer for people to be so loving and compassionate that violence never reached the level of requiring police or governments.) However, CANSPAM represents the official rejection of our preferences by the US government, and I see little gain in dwelling on battles already lost.

Washington today is full of people trying to figure out their new mandate of regulating email. They're going to do it, regardless of our preferences, and I think some of us who understand the complexities should try to play a constructive role in fleshing out that mandate. I consider it virtually inevitable that they will require some form of enhanced tracability in the name of stopping spam -- it's just about the very first instinct of a bureaucracy -- so the question I am trying to pose is, essentially, what is the least harmful way of doing this?

Preserving anonymous email is very important to me, and a battle worth fighting very passionately in the long run. The architecture of any anti-spam tracing facilities will be critical to that battle. I think we need to accept that we've lost the "whether" battle -- e.g. whether or not there will be police on the net trying to trace email -- and try to respond in a strategically intelligent way, by helping define a tracing architecture that is anonymity-friendly. I expect that some people I respect enormously may choose to fall on their swords in total opposition to the "email police." But I hope that some of the many great minds of the IETF will focus on the challenging design question of how to preserve interpersonal anonymity while facilitating spam tracing. I'm not sure I would want to live with the result of forcing that to be an either/or choice. -- Nathaniel
Nathaniel S. Borenstein <nsb(_at_)cpsr(_dot_)org>
President, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

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