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[liberationtech] on the traceability of circumvention tools

Collin Anderson collin at averysmallbird.com
Thu Sep 16 18:42:07 PDT 2010


I think that while we can always use reifying comments on the implications
and dangers of such tools, to get caught up in issues of legality or
suspicion betrays what's actually interesting about Mehdi's point.

In the spirit of making personal mistakes, I am going to wade into this a
bit. I have at my disposal access logs of two medium-traffic, non-political
Iran sites targeted to individuals that no one would call activists or (um,
oh god) "digital natives." Grep'ing for known proxies, circumvention tools,
et al, I find that they dominate my top sources of traffic.

Issues of forensics presuppose that circumvention is aberrant behavior;
however, in Iran it isn't. My point is that what is interesting is the fact
that everyone really does use these tools... and for really banal reasons.
I'll probably wager a hundred dollars that if anyone here were to set up a
proxy, all the traffic would go to Facebook and Youtube, and Mr. Mousavi's
name would not show up.

How, Greg and all, does that change the arithmetic on the forensic motive?
And for that matter, weighing the viability of such tools.

Cordially,
CDA

On Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 8:48 PM, Greg Broiles <gbroiles at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 1:04 PM, Behdad Esfahbod <behdad at behdad.org>
> wrote:
> > Thanks Mehdi for starting this thread.  I'll reply in more detail later,
> but
> > wanted to single-out this part:
> >
> > On 09/16/10 00:31, Mehdi Yahyanejad wrote:
> >> However, circumvention tools are not illegal in Iran
> >
> > I'm fairly sure (and I mean 99% sure) that this is incorrect.  I'll dig
> out
> > the laws tonight.
>
> Whether or not the claim that circumvention tools are legal is
> literally true, the question of whether or not certain behavior is
> illegal is only part of the picture.
>
> An important distinction to make when discussing privacy tools is
> whether they're meant to provide security versus people with an
> "intelligence" motive or people with a "forensic" motive.
>
> Actors with an intelligence motive are likely to be uninterested in
> perfect or near-perfect certainty about the information they gather;
> even general tendencies and possibilities are useful in an
> intelligence context, especially when they can be combined with other
> intelligence. (If I have one data point that suggests there's a 10%
> chance that Actor X is reading the Website of Forbidden Knowledge,
> that tells me something. If I have 20 data points each of which
> individually suggests that there's a 10% chance that Actor X is
> reading the Website of Forbidden Knowledge, that tells me a lot.)
>
> Information gathered for intelligence purposes will likely never be
> disclosed publicly, and intelligence gatherers will often actively and
> vigorously oppose disclosure because disclosure may compromise their
> ability to use the same "sources and methods" to continue to gather
> intelligence. Intelligence information is typically used to identify
> or neutralize threats without "due process" or judicial review.
>
> Actors with a forensic motive are concerned with collecting reliable
> evidence which can be presented in a public trial or other procedure
> to demonstrate noncompliance with articulable standards of behavior.
>
> Individuals who are concerned about being identified as "enemies of
> the state" and then being subjected to informal or extra-legal
> violence or economic punishments from "intelligence" forces or
> [para]military units, formal or informal, can't expect protection from
> civil laws because their opponents/antagonists don't care about civil
> law.
>
> Nice people who grow up in modern Western societies and get liberal
> arts degrees and wonder "why won't those mean people let those other
> nice people vote?" can find it difficult to design for an environment
> where the consequences of appearing to be associated with the wrong
> people can be death for an entire family - and there will never be a
> trial so arguments about whether or not something has been proven to
> an appropriate standard of proof on the basis of admissible evidence
> are meaningless.
>
> --
> Greg Broiles, JD, LLM Tax, EA
> gbroiles at gmail.com (Lists only. Not for confidential communications.)
> Legacy Planning Law Group
> San Jose, CA
> California Estate Planning Blog: http://www.estateplanblog.com
> Certified Specialist- Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law, California
> Board of Legal Specialization
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