cr> “Nations see Internet as Threat”


Craig A. Johnson

Date:          Sun, 04 Feb 1996 12:38:46 -0500
From:          Dave Farber <•••@••.•••>
Subject:       IP: "Nations see Internet.."
To:            •••@••.••• (interesting-people mailing list)

From: Mike Ang <•••@••.•••>

"Nations see Internet as threat to security" made the front page of
the Saturday _Globe and Mail_.

There are some really nice lines in the article, which basically
states that electronic freedoms through the Internet are a direct
challenge to the power of nation states.  They mention all of the more
recent examples in China, Germany, France, and the States.

The author obviously wasn't afraid of making large claims.  Most of
them were acceptable, but some seemed completely unsubstantiated (see

Here are some of the more interesting paragraphs:

But as China, Germany, the United States and now France have
discovered recently, data sent electronically over the Internet can be
every bit as threatening to a country's laws or its culture as armies
of yesteryear.  But its elusive nature makes it difficult to track
down and impossible to eradicate.  And there is growing concern that
the very existence of the Internet is a threat to the nation-state.


"We think of states as unitary bodies, but what they really are is a
bundle of sovereignties -- economic sovereignty, military sovereignty,
cultural and social sovereignty."  That bundle is now coming undone,
or as Mr. Saffo put it, "Digital technology is the solvent leaching
the glue out of the state as we know it."


It's not just cultural or social sovereignty that governments worry
about.  The power to tax is also being eroded by the increase in
economic transactions that take place over the Internet, some
encrypted so that prying eyes at the tax department could not read
them even if a tax inspector was fortunate enough to stumble upon
them.  Drug dealers and terrorists are resorting increasingly to this
means of moving funds.


However, advocates of unregulated cyberspace says [sic] this just
means that the only people using encryption programs at the moment are
those doing it illegally.  It's a similar argument to the one often
made in Canada against gun control -- the bad guys already have


Yay, more FUD.  The article does a good job of raising some of the
important issues.  But I _highly_ doubt that "drug dealers and
terrorists" are using digital cash to transfer funds.  They also
characterize strong encryption as something evil.

The author implies that main reason for encrypting financial
transactions is to evade the tax department - if I'm sending my credit
card # across the net, _of course_ I'm going to encrypt it, and when
using digital cash, encryption is generally part of authentication.

Comparing crypto to guns works in the sense that the "bad guys" will
always be able to have access to them.  However, I for one support gun
control but do not support mandatory limits on crypto.  Where I live,
there are no theats that justify allowing everyone to carry guns - the
threat to privacy and freedom of speech justifies allowing everyone to
use strong crypto.  You can use a gun to deprive another person of
their life - what harm can you do another with PGP?  Perhaps you can
harm them by being able to spread hate propaganda, but I don't think
that that is a strong enough argument.

 - Mike.

If you've got to flame me, do it by email.


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