[tor-project] Privacy-enhancing vs Transparency-enhancing

Virgil Griffith i at virgil.gr
Sun Jul 17 17:48:28 UTC 2016

> I think what you're proposing has the exact same type of risk for Tor.

Three minor bits.

(1) In the abstract, both western and eastern societies are typically in
favor of whistleblowing.  But whistleblowing is represented in the
value-system very differently.  If you started drilling down into
specifics, asian authorities would accept that whistleblowing requires
anonymity for the whistleblower---so we're all factually on the same page
for what's involved.  The difference is that whereas the West conceives of
whistleblowing as a privacy technology, the East conceives of it as a
transparency technology.

(2) The bitcoin analogy is a little different because this tension arises
from conflicting conceptions privacy/transparency bitcoin actually
provides.  In the whistleblowing example, there's no such ambiguity on the
mechanics, yet the framings are still opposite.

(3) Historically speaking, Asia is the most anti-Tor region in the world.  I
assert that, even with asian authorities, there's often agreement on some
concrete specifics (e.g., the value of whistleblowing).  Putting these
concrete examples into their native framing makes it much easier to find
that mutual agreement.  And this would be a good thing for increasing
Asia's receptivity to Tor and related technologies.

Perhaps the most high-profile example:
It is striking that this is a cause both the Paramount Leader of the
Chinese Community Party and Tor Project can get behind (ignoring details of
Xi's specific implementation).


On Sun, Jul 17, 2016 at 11:00 AM, Peter Todd <pete at petertodd.org> wrote:

> On Sun, Jul 17, 2016 at 06:50:42AM +0800, Virgil Griffith wrote:
> > I recently had the pleasure of receiving some
> > OnionLink related phone calls from the Singapore Police Force.  They were
> > very polite and had noticeably impeccable English.
> >
> > I learned some things from these discussions.
> >
> > In Asia, the noun-phrase "Privacy Enhancing Technologies" is viewed with
> > suspicion.  But you frame the exact same thing as a "Transparency
> Enhancing
> > Technology", and they're all about that!
> >
> > E.g., whistleblowing isn't seen as privacy enhancing for the individual,
> > but as transparency enhancing for the society!
> The whistleblowing use-case is transparency enhancing tech built on top of
> privacy enhancing technology; it does not mean that Tor itself is mainly
> transparency enhancing tech.
> Conversely, a "blockchain" enthusiast could promote the "transparency
> enhancing
> technology" of paying employees of the government with some kind of
> anti-privacy blockchain recording what they do with their funds to allow
> all
> their finances to be easily inspected. Or for that matter, you could use
> the
> "transparency enhancing technology" of putting cameras in the washrooms, to
> make sure no-one was using that moment of privacy to receive bribe money.
> (the
> first example isn't hypothetical - I actually have had to turn down clients
> asking me to work on projects like that)
> In Bitcoin we have many in the community vigorously portraying Bitcoin as
> anything but anonymous, including to government regulators. This has lead
> to
> serious misconceptions about the system, for instance regulators thinking
> that
> metadata like IP addresses and even human identities are recorded on the
> Bitcoin blockchain. The reality is somewhere in the middle: Bitcoin isn't
> perfectly anonymous, but it's still very difficult to trace funds without a
> high risk of false-postives, particularly if people are putting any effort
> into
> hiding their tracks.
> I'm personally very concerned that this deception will backfire on the
> Bitcoin
> community: if people think you've lied to them, you'll lose your trust very
> quickly, and the whole field will get a negative reputation. It also means
> that
> you may be forced to change the reality to fit the narrative: if regulators
> have been assuming Bitcoin isn't anonymous, the fact that it is may be
> something we're demanded to "fix" on short notice.
> I think what you're proposing has the exact same type of risk for Tor.
> --
> https://petertodd.org 'peter'[:-1]@petertodd.org
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