Michael E. Marotta
Libertà di Data Processing
Da "Loompanics' Greatest Hits", Loompanics Unlimited, 1990, USA
"La rivoluzione informatica è tutto tranne che finita: se non sai come usare un computer sei un analfabeta."
"La natura di una classe dominante è determinata dalle tecnologie della sua epoca. Una volta erano cavalieri in armature di ferro. Poi produttori di merci industriali. Oggi la nuova classe dirigente è formata da chi possiede o sa usare gli strumenti per il trattamento automatico dei dati. Chiamateli Datalord."
"La rivoluzione cibernetica richiederà un nuovo sistema legale." "Mentre una macchina è ancora proprietà privata nel senso capitalistico del termine, i dati in essa inseriti devono essere regolati da nuove leggi che meglio corrispondano alla loro natura.
E' proprio delle tecnologie informatiche e video la copia ed il trasferimento d'informazioni: Esci e prendi quei dati!!"
Michael E. Marotta
MN dissente da alcune delle opinioni di Marotta. Soprattutto da quelle politiche. E non so dirvi quanto un sociologo o un economista politico concorderebbero con alcune delle sue affermazioni. Probabilmente poco; forse niente. D'altronde nessuno di noi è un economista politico né un sociologo e alcune delle tematiche trattate nell'articolo sono decisamente interessanti. Si è così deciso di pubblicarlo. Sono tuttavia necessarie alcune considerazioni.
Esci e prendi quei dati!! Quali dati? Tutti i dati.
Social activists legislate against invasion of privacy by individuals with access to data. E io concordo con questi attivisti sociali.
Non permetterò a nessuno, specie se right wing church oriented activist, d'impedirmi di leggere e/o di avere il tipo di rapporti sessuali che a me piace avere. No, non permetterò a nessuno. Ma neppure voglio che si sappia in giro cosa leggo e/o con chi ho rapporti sessuali. E neppure per chi ho votatato (se ho votato) alle ultime elezioni o per quale malattia sono attualmente in cura.
D'altronde non è solo un problema di privacy. Vi sono anche ragioni di sicurezza (sopravvivenza). Nessuno vorrebbe viaggiare su un areoplano la cui banca dati è infestata di virus o farsi operare in un ospedale il cui computer centrale viene quotidianamente manipolato da una banda di sconosciuti.
Esiste un mito falsamente scientifico e profondamente reazionario: la totale equivalenza dei dati. 0/1 (s)magnetizzati, trattati da algoritmi in linguaggi formali e trasmessi lungo un canale. Niente di più; bit indistinguibili l'uno dall'altro.
Ebbene: è falso. Non tutti i dati sono uguali, non tutti gli 0/1 equivalenti. Una cosa sono i dati, un'altra il loro trattamento. Talmente banale: ovvio. Sembrerebbe inutile spenderci sopra altre parole. Eppure qualcuno s'ostina a fare confusione così che dobbiamo ripetere il già detto. Esistono dati pubblici e dati privati. Da una parte dati che riguardano la vita quotidiana di noi tutti, la nostra stessa possibilità di capire/interagire con la realtà che ci circonda; informazioni che appartengono a tutta la comunità e che è illegale impedirmi d'usare, criminale tenermi nascoste: informazioni che è necessario, ove possibile, forzare. Ma d'altra parte vi sono dati che riguardano solo me, la mia persona privata, la mia vita privata; informazioni che è altrettanto criminale rendere pubblici contro la mia volontà e che bisogna a tutti i costi tutelare.
Ma allora attenzione. Occorre distinguere. Esci e prendi quei dati!! No, non tutti. Alcune banche dati è meglio lasciarle protette. Altre ancora sarebbe meglio non crearle per niente. Ma questo è un altro discorso da affrontarsi a parte.
FREEDOM OF DATA PROCESSING
by Michael E. Marotta
"A well-informed citizenry being essential to the betterment of our republic, the right of the people to own and use computers shall not be abridged". (proposed Amendment to the Constitution)
Your computer is your newest tool for securing and expanding your freedom.
While earlier ages gave real political and economic power to those who rode horses or wore armor or carried firearms, today, real power is wielded by those who can use a computer.
The "computer revolution" is all but over.
If you do not know how to use a computer, you are illiterate.
If you can't write a program, you are poor in a society where information is wealth.
If you can't follow a menu or a manual you are isolated in a world of mass communication.
Over the last 30 years, we have experienced a rapid acceleration of this trend toward an economy driven by the transfer of information.
A fisherman uses his computer to keep track of his catches.
Over the years he has used BASIC, Visi-Calc and now dBase III to build a database which includes the date of the catch, the species, weight and length of the fish, the water temperature, air temperature and pressure, and the lure or bait.
A farmer has just bought a used personal computer and a new herd management program.
He knows that it will be years before he and his sons will be able to go back over the accumulated data to set a proper course for the management of their land and livestock over the next 12 years.
In the meantime, they calculate their incomes and expenses on a monthly basis.
And the youngest learns the ABCs with a Sesame Street diskette.
Using a personal computer, a financial analyst can keep track of: the New York Stock Exchange; the American Stock Exchange; several regional stock exchanges; Comdex (Commodities Exchange); London and Hong Kong Gold; Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae, Sallie Mae; Treasury Balance and TBill rates; and more.
Most important is the fact that this analyst can run these raw data through various econometric models to test for short and long-term trends, seek out maximum profits from interest rates and brokerage fees, and minimize taxation by comparing investments in different states and nations.
Today, we are witnessing the culmination of a trend.
Personal computing is now a "given".
Someone who lives frugally can purchase a used computer with a CRT, 48k of RAM, and two single density drives for about $200 A person who is employed at a high-tech or unionized job can afford the same bvel of computer power enjoyed by corporations and governments.
We are at a stage in history where the average individual can be a data processing center.
Naturally, governments don't want this to happen.
In Britain, the government now requires everyone with a database to inform the State of what data they hold and how they got it.
The law was passed (ostensibly) to protect people from unauthorized transfer of data about them by private organizations.
Of course, the law does not apply to the government.
While such draconian measures are not necessarily part of America's future, some trends can easily push us into a fascist society.
For one thing, the election of a rightwing, church-oriented president (or vice president, since this could come about as an internal compromise) could definitely be the springboard which would give Congress the excuse to pass laws which seriously restrict freedom of data processing.
Rightwing Christians are professional snoopers.
''Pornographic'' software, computer dating services, mailing lists of people who read "dangerous" books or rent "dirty" videos, and so on will be their targets.
Also, liberals are notoriously prejudiced against private enterprise.
If anything like the British database law will come to pass, it will be because social activists legislate against "invasion of privacy" by individuals with access to data.
A victory in the 1988 election by a liberal can have grave consequences.
Given the strength of the"draft lacocca" movement, it is likely that even if he himself doesn't run these people will have a great deal to say in any future Democratic administration.
Price controls, import restrictions and anti-Japanese sentiments will have a devastating effect on the affordability of computer hardware.
Judging from the boards used in today's Apples, IBM-PCs, and DEC VT240s, about 10% of the chips used in American computers are made in El Salvador.
Democratic administrations are notoriously soft on communism and this source of computer hardware could dry up by 1990.
On the domestic front, major corporations and government bodies have been arguing about what kind of "computer crime" law should be enacted.
Note that they are not discussing whether but what and when.
The Michigan computer law of 1979 makes it a possible felony to even "attempt to access... any computer system... or computer software.. without authorization."
Yet "authorization" is never defined.
Later this can be interpreted to mean "permission from the government."
Federal laws will soon be passed which follow the same reasoning; right now they are arguing over the specific language.
Another threat to personal computing comes from labor unions.
During the Fall of 1985, the CBS network show 60 Minutes ran a segment called "Homework" about people (women, mostly) who make garments at home and sell them to who salers and jobbers.
The manufacture of women's (though not men's) garments is regulated by the federal labor boards at the behest of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.
The union has been actively harassing people who make women's clothes at home.
A wholesaler told the news guy that this is just the first step, that the next step will be the direct regulation of all home businesses, for instance the computer software industry.
When asked if this were true, a union official said in fact that going after the home-based computer software industry is a high priority!
Even within the computer industry there are those who have sold out to the Dark Side of the Force. In January of 1986, PC World carried a quote from Kevin Jenkins the chief at Hercules Computer Technology. According to Jenkins, the idea that the computer "expands your freedom" and "opens up new areas of human potential" is just a bunch of "new wave... nonsense" promulgated by Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computers.
Jenkins is clearly a crypto-fascist who would side with governments and unions to regulate you and your computer.
In the summer of 1985, Michael Brown applied to the Software Publishers Association for an award based on sales of his program.
The independent auditing team reviewed his books and he was slated to receive a gold-plated plaque for selling over 100,000 units of "Copy II."
Then the Software Publishers Association attempted to take back the award.
"Copy II" is a program that copies other programs.
Part of its functionality is the fact that it can break copy-protection schemes.
The Software Publishers Association claims that this leads to millions of dollars of lost sales.
However, many users need to break such protection in order to make archival back-ups of their disks.
Michael Brown settled out of court.
He got moral support from throughout the software industry.
However, the Software Publishers Association can be expected to act like socialists when it comes to protecting their interests.
A free marketeer, Michael Brown set aside $180,000 for his defense fund.
Verifying the "tragedy of the commons," the SPA could only garner $50,000. (The "tragedy of the commons" is that while "all" may benefit from something, each will only pay in no more than they must to use a "common resource.") The SPA must out of necessity turn to the government if they hope to keep their monopoly on software publishing.
In September of 1986, software industry leaders, Ashton-Tate, Microsoft and Adapso (The Assocation of Data Processing Organizations), announced that they will no longer copy-protect software.
Said Microsoft president, Bill Gates, "The customer won." Piracy in the 1500s and 1600s was caused by nationalist wars and mercantilist tariffs.
The success of pirates on the high seas led to the era of laissez faire.
So, too, has software piracy led to admission by some that force of law is inferior to the realities of the marketplace.
The free market impels toward excellence. Michael Brown (creator of "Copy II") said that his firm fights piracy by frequently improving their software. Only paying customers can be notified of updates.
And yet, there is no end to the list of people who would limit or deny your right to compute.
You must be ready to defend what rights you want and to extend those rights however possible.
The alternative is ignorance.
In order to defend your right to compute, all of your data files should be protected with encryption.
On the one hand, a crypto-system which rests on known, historical methods can be relatively easy to crack.
On the other hand, there are so many algorithms, each with a host of variations, that almost any method for secure communication will do the job.
The home computer makes it very easy to switch among a dozen schemes.
The availability of bulletin-board software is your key to rapid and secure communication.
Bulletin board software allows your home computer to function as a message center.
Some communications packages, such as Shareware's"RBBS-PC," are excellent for in-bound messages; others, such as Hayes "SmartCom II," are ideal for dialing out.
It matters little which software you choose.
The important thing is to get it and use it.
Would you rather rely on the U.S. Postal Service to provide you with rapid and secure communication?
In defense of your right to process data, you need to develop the kind of mentality that creates a login routine which asks for the day of the week.
If you answer with the day of the week, the computer shuts down; the proper response is your aunt's maiden name.
This is the modern way to fight unwarranted search and seizure.
You can set up a secure bulletin board system and announce it to those with whom you would share data.
Survival information, analysis of economic and political news, information about life-extension and more can be available to you and a handful of friends you may never meet face-to-face.
Realize that given unlimited time and resources, any code or cipher can be broken.
However, welfare department case workers and alcohol tax agents are government employees; their ability to follow obvious clues to a logical conclusion is limited.
On the other hand, if the stakes are high enough the federal government will devote incredible resources in a brute force or "tempest" attack.
The public key crypto-system developed at Stanford by Merkle, Hellman and Diffie was broken by Adi Shamir.
Working at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, Shamir was continuing the investigations begun with Rivest and Adlemann at MIT on public key cryptosystems.
At a cryptosystem conference held in Santa Barbara, California, Adlemann demonstrated Shamir's work using an Apple II computer.
The Stanford public key system was broken by the brilliant mathematical insights of a single person.
The Stanford people have in turn targetted the Data Encryption Algorithm devised for the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Standards.
The algorithm is supposed to be used by all banks and other federal institutions (for instance, it is used to transfer Air Force paychecks).
However, the U.S. Government does not allow the DEA to be used for even the lowest level of military security.
The team at Stanford has set a price of $5 million to build a machine with enough parallel processors to take apart DEA transmissions in less than a day.
Clearly, no cryptosystem is completely secure.
However, it is possible to devise secure means for communication that are unambiguous, easy to use and difficult to break.
The "dictionary code" meets these criteria.
Those who would communicate securely decide upon one or more books which all own.
The Christian Bible, the Oxford English Dictionary, or an encyclopedia are obvious choices.
Obscure editions of fairy tales, nursery rhymes or geology texts could also serve as code dictionaries.
Scientific researchers who collaborate long distance will be forced to rely on some standard (and well-known texts) since books like the Bible don't have the word "microscope" and even the Encyclopedia Brittanica is woefully short on material about the behavior of the hydroxyl ion's valance electron during cellular respiration.
Nonetheless, a personal computer can be programmed to issue new dictionaries where the key words (for molecules, or stock market issues, or bullet calibers) are constant and the codes (number or letter groups) change frequently.
Should anyone try to intercept or monitor these communications, it could take years, if not decades, to unscramble the encoded messages and it could run into millions of dollars.
Consider that there are still battlefield ciphers from World War II that have never been decrypted.
It is no longer worth the effort.
These ciphers succeeded in their purpose to hold secure a transmission.
Realize that your right to process data means more than just encrypting your mailing lists.
Since your tax money pays for the collection of government data, you have a right to that information.
If you own stock in a corporation, you have a right to the information created or discovered by that joint stock company.
You have a right to any information which can adversely affect your life. It is a matter of self defense to know what chemicals are put into the water you drink and who puts them there.
Furthermore, you have a right to transmit what you know.
Yet there are government prosecutors who chase "pornographers" and reporters from television stations by claiming that "freedom of the press" is limited to those who own photo-offset lithographic presses.
The fact is that freedom of the press would be meaningless if it were limited to a narrow interpretation such that the State cannot seize a printing press without a court order.
Telecommunications and desktop publishing are the active expressions of what Ben Franklin had in mind 200 years ago.
What, after all, is a "newspaper?" Consider that the Wau Street Journal is typeset electronically and broadcast via satellite to several printing plants around the world.
How is this different from a homebrew bulletin board system? In Michigan's capital city, The Lansing State Journal gets its state government reporting from the Associated Press wire service.
lf they have a right to gather news electronically, then so do you.
You have every reason to go beyond the narrow limits imposed by the powers that be.
"Auto-dialer" programs enable your computer to search for other data processing machines.
The Computer Underground, written by M. Harry (Loompanics, 1986) has a listing for an auto-dialer program for Apple computers. MegaSoft (PO Box 1080, Battle Ground, WA 98604) sells an "autodialer" for Commodore computers; the "War Games Auto-Dialer" costs about $30.
In order to realize the fullest possible benefits from the computer revolution, it is necessary to adopt an attitude which is open and expansive in regard to data processing.
A feudalist world of ultra-secure computers and data fortresses is contrary to the spirit of data processing.
Every era has its ruling class, and the nature of the ruling class is determined by the technology of the era. Formerly, men on horses wearing armor ruled. Later it was people who could design and produce industrial goods. Today people who own or can use electronic data processing equipment are the new ruling class.
Call them the "Datalords."
In each age, the ruling class tailors the law to suit its own ends. During times of transition, the innovators must fight against an established order as they develop their own world views.
The best example in Western Civilization is the existence of real estate laws.
Land is called "real" estate because you can't put it on a horse and carry it out from under the control of the king. It is called real "estate" because title to it comes "ex-state," i.e., from the state. The king can grant titles; the king can revoke titles.
The advent of capitalism brought about a legal system that recognized the ownership of a drop forge without a deed certified by a governmental unit or a title search performed by a government licensee.
The cybernetic revolution will require a legal system which supports the view that while a machine is still property in the capitalist sense, the data in the machine is regulated by new laws that better suit its nature.
Consider that silver and gold are "static" commodities.
There is a fixed and known amount of each on Earth and the materials are universally useful to humans.
Wheat and lumber are "dynamic" commodities.
The amount of each is determined by the demand.
The demand is universal and the supply is limited by economic factors which control the amount of land and human effort available to produce wheat and lumber.
No one will refuse a free loaf of bread.
Data is a "fluid" commodity.
It can be produced in super-abundance.
It can be copied.
Copying data does not destroy it. (There is no way to copy gold or wheat.)
Moreover, unlike bread and gold, data is not universally useful.
In the Christian Bible, there is a story about a shepherd boy named David who defeats a giant named Goliath.
At one point in the story, the king offers David his royal armor to wear into battle.
The Bible tells of how the boy David trudges back and forth, trying the burdensome metal plate.
David respectfully declines the offer, trusting in his god to protect him.
Now you know this cute story.
Can you use the data?
On Thursday, October 9, 1986, Nissan Motors over-the-counter stock was bid at 7 1/8 while the asking price was 7 1/4 .
Can you use that information?
Consider the E.F. Hutton economist who in late 1982 relied on his old Federal Reserve System computer password to discover money supply figures.
The Fed announces these figures weekly and the amount of paper in circulation has a direct effect on interest rates.
Knowing in advance what the money supply would be announced to be, the man from E.F. Hutton was able to trade profitably on behalf of his employers.
Time magazine for January 13, 1983, called this"Filching Figures."
However, it is clear that nothing was "filched;" the figures still resided in the machines.
What the government (and Time) objected to was the fact that this individual didn't wait for some lackey to read the data from a cue card at a press conference.
In his book Electronic Life, author and screenwriter, Michael Crichton, states that it is inherent in the technology of both computing and video to copy and transfer information.
Himself a big earner of copyright royalties, Crichton says that the present system is archaic.
In his novel The Shockwave Rider, John Brunner makes a case for opening all government data files.
There is a real good reason why selling stock in a company is called "going public." Does your electric utility company have a right to privacy that prevents you from accessing and auditing its books? As a stockholder in a major corporation, don't you have a right to know about the company? Why doesn't your local manufacturer release to you the information they have already provided the U.S. Patent Office or OSHA?
Similarly, your state's wildlife department has land-use data which can help you find a homestead or a campsite or a ski-slope.
The department of transportation computers can warn you in advance of where holiday traffic accidents have occurred over the last 10 years.
The state treasury can show you how much you, your employer or your neighbor has paid in taxes.
Go out there and get that data!!
The Libertarian E-Mail Directory is available from Dan Tobias, 4025 Golf Links Blvd Apt. 340 Shreveport, LA 71109, for $5.00.
It contains the personal names and data path names for about 40 libertarians using ARPA, CompuServe, Delphi, Internet, and other electronic mail systems.
A FINAL NOTE-- In November of 1986. the Reagan administration launched a direct assault on your right to process data.
Then-security advisor John Poindexter said that the government was seeking ways to limit access to PRIVATE DATA BASE SERVICES.
This was echoed by Diane Fountaine. a Dept. of Defense speaker at a convention of the Information Industry Association.
Poindexter said that the feds want to stop access to Information in the PUBLIC DOMAIN which they consider 'sensitive but unclassified.-' He targetted data on hazardous materials.
Federal Reserve policy social security and the Securities Exchange Commission.
Fountaine's goals involve restricting access to public database services like Nexis.
Dialog and Delphi The Dept of Defense would have a law which requires database service to "red flag" individuals who ask too many questions about so called high tech subjects like lasers; users who are "red flagged" would have their names turned over to the feds.