Subject: Re: Q: Can you build an authentication system on OS?
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2001 13:00:26 -0700
Tue, 10 Jul 2001 13:00:26 -0700
on Mon, Jul 09, 2001 at 04:28:14PM -0700, Tim O'Reilly ( wrote:
> Shiraz Kanga wrote:
> > 
> > Tim:
> > opinion on my previous suggestion of having a license that regulates
> > how data is used in addition to all the ones we have that only
> > regulate code.
> > 
> It's certainly something to consider.  
> There are several issues here:
> * Privacy, and the right of individuals to own their own data.
> is a good place to watch for information on these threats.
>   (And Simson Garfinkel's book Database Nation gives a rather chilling
>   overview of the various negative possibilities.)  Dave Farber, one
>   of the EFF founders, is fond of quoting Benjamin Franklin on this
>   one:  "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little
>   temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."  Substitute
>   convenience for users of Passport, or various "Fastrak" type bridge
>   and freeway toll payment mechanisms, and you have a good sense of
>   the slippery slope we're on.  Larry Lessig's books (Code and other
>   Laws of Cyberspace, and especially the new one that will be out in
>   the next couple of months) are also really good on this topic.  We
>   think of the internet as an architecture of freedom, but in fact
>   it's becoming an architecture that will support an unprecedented
>   amount of control.  EBook security mechanisms could eventually
>   regulate what we read, not just what we buy.  GPS is already being
>   used to regulate how fast we drive, not just to tell us where we
>   are.  Etc.  What we tell others about ourselves, and who owns it, is
>   one of the great battlegrounds of the next few decades.  But I don't
>   think it's going to be solved by a license.  It's going to take an
>   awake and alarmed citizenry that resists the slippery slope, and
>   makes other choices about what technologies to adopt.

Bushwhacking the topic a bit, I used (not sure if coined) "Glass Houses"
to describe a world in which data are very frequently available -- FSB
is one such glass house (publicly viewable archives -- you can see what
members have written in various states of mind for most of the past
decade).  More at

One thought is that we're entering an age in which we have, perhaps, a
global small town.  This isn't altogether David Brin's transparent
society utopia -- one critical difference between the small town and the
"global small town" is this:

  o Small Town:  everybody knows everybody's business.
  o Global Small Town:  anybody can know anybody's business.

In the small town, the stranger, or resident, who starts asking nosy
questions, is rapidly apparent.  In the current electronic world, I
don't know who's snooping on me or not (well, usually).  One question
I've posed in a few different discussions is:  would an overt,
publically accessible, database (or set of databases) be preferable to
the current system of private, cloistered, datasets, few of which are
readily accessible to those who are described by the data itself.
Particularly if the public database tracked access to specific records.

As with many people in the tech field, I've used, built, and accessed
such databases, including healthcare, finance, government, consumer
credit, and consumer profiling systems.  My own work experience makes
the observations of Garfinkel and Lessig more, not less, compelling.

I've also been travelling for a good part of the year -- there are a
number of other statements made by the US's founding fathers regarding
information, freedom, and the foundations of the US Revolutionary War
which are strikingly appropriate in the present age.  One particularly
compelling example:  the importance of the Stamp Act (requiring a stamp
-- and concomittant tax -- on all publications, including legal
documents, books, newspapers, etc.), in fomenting rebellion among the
colonists, and its current parallels in pay-per-view and micropayment
systems.  Worth an essay itself, I think.

Karsten M. Self <>
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
   Are these opinions my employer's?  Hah!  I don't believe them myself!

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