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A Cypherpunk's Manifesto

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  1.  
  2. A Cypherpunk's Manifesto
  3.  
  4. Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age.
  5. Privacy is not secrecy.  A private matter is something one doesn't
  6. want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one
  7. doesn't want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively
  8. reveal oneself to the world.  
  9.  
  10. If two parties have some sort of dealings, then each has a memory of
  11. their interaction.  Each party can speak about their own memory of
  12. this; how could anyone prevent it?  One could pass laws against it,
  13. but the freedom of speech, even more than privacy, is fundamental to
  14. an open society; we seek not to restrict any speech at all.  If many
  15. parties speak together in the same forum, each can speak to all the
  16. others and aggregate together knowledge about individuals and other
  17. parties.  The power of electronic communications has enabled such
  18. group speech, and it will not go away merely because we might want it
  19. to.
  20.  
  21. Since we desire privacy, we must ensure that each party to a
  22. transaction have knowledge only of that which is directly necessary
  23. for that transaction.  Since any information can be spoken of, we
  24. must ensure that we reveal as little as possible.  In most cases
  25. personal identity is not salient. When I purchase a magazine at a
  26. store and hand cash to the clerk, there is no need to know who I am.
  27. When I ask my electronic mail provider to send and receive messages,
  28. my provider need not know to whom I am speaking or what I am saying
  29. or what others are saying to me;  my provider only need know how to
  30. get the message there and how much I owe them in fees.  When my
  31. identity is revealed by the underlying mechanism of the transaction,
  32. I have no privacy.  I cannot here selectively reveal myself; I must
  33. _always_ reveal myself.
  34.  
  35. Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction
  36. systems.  Until now, cash has been the primary such system.  An
  37. anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system.  An
  38. anonymous system empowers individuals to reveal their identity when
  39. desired and only when desired; this is the essence of privacy.
  40.  
  41. Privacy in an open society also requires cryptography.  If I say
  42. something, I want it heard only by those for whom I intend it.  If
  43. the content of my speech is available to the world, I have no
  44. privacy.  To encrypt is to indicate the desire for privacy, and to
  45. encrypt with weak cryptography is to indicate not too much desire for
  46. privacy.  Furthermore, to reveal one's identity with assurance when
  47. the default is anonymity requires the cryptographic signature.
  48.  
  49. We cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless
  50. organizations to grant us privacy out of their beneficence.  It is to
  51. their advantage to speak of us, and  we should expect that they will
  52. speak.  To try to prevent their speech is to fight against the
  53. realities of information. Information does not just want to be free,
  54. it longs to be free.  Information expands to fill the available
  55. storage space.  Information is Rumor's younger, stronger cousin;
  56. Information is fleeter of foot, has more eyes, knows more, and
  57. understands less than Rumor.
  58.  
  59. We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any.  We must
  60. come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions
  61. to take place.  People have been defending their own privacy for
  62. centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret
  63. handshakes, and couriers.  The technologies of the past did not allow
  64. for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do.
  65.  
  66. We the Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems.  We
  67. are defending our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail
  68. forwarding systems, with digital signatures, and with electronic
  69. money.
  70.  
  71. Cypherpunks write code.  We know that someone has to write software
  72. to defend privacy, and since we can't get privacy unless we all do,
  73. we're going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow
  74. Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all
  75. to use, worldwide.  We don't much care if you don't approve of the
  76. software we write.  We know that software can't be destroyed and that
  77. a widely dispersed system can't be shut down.
  78.  
  79. Cypherpunks deplore regulations on cryptography, for encryption is
  80. fundamentally a private act.  The act of encryption, in fact, removes
  81. information from the public realm.  Even laws against cryptography
  82. reach only so far as a nation's border and the arm of its violence.
  83. Cryptography will ineluctably spread over the whole globe, and with
  84. it the anonymous transactions systems that it makes possible.
  85.  
  86. For privacy to be widespread it must be part of a social contract.
  87. People must come and together deploy these systems for the common
  88. good.  Privacy only extends so far as the cooperation of one's
  89. fellows in society.  We the Cypherpunks seek your questions and your
  90. concerns and hope we may engage you so that we do not deceive
  91. ourselves.  We will not, however, be moved out of our course because
  92. some may disagree with our goals.
  93.  
  94. The Cypherpunks are actively engaged in making the networks safer for
  95. privacy.  Let us proceed together apace.
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