HUMAN-NETS Digest V8 #21

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Jun 30, 1985, 1:47:28 AM6/30/85
From: Charles McGrew (The Moderator) <Human-Nets-Request@Rutgers>

HUMAN-NETS Digest Sunday, 30 Jun 1985 Volume 8 : Issue 21

Today's Topics:

Computer Ethics - Thoughts on KKK / Neo-Nazi bboards,
Computers and People - Finger follies (2 msgs) &
The Very Doors Have Chips,
Information - Call for Papers -- NAFIPS Meeting


Date: Thu, 27 Jun 85 09:24 PDT
From: "Lubkin David"@LLL-MFE.ARPA
Subject: Thoughts on KKK / Neo-Nazi

Someone I told about the posting in Digest #20 suggested telling
hackers -- excuse me, electronic vandals -- about these bulletin
boards in the hope that they'll crash the systems and keep them

Is this any different than taking a sledge to a printing press?

If the boards were restricted access, is it ethical to sneak in?

Does it matter that they are the bad guys?

When does the safety of the nation take precedence over freedom
of the press?

Are these people a threat or are they just making noise?

If a Neo-Nazi posts a technical question to INFO-IBMPC, is he
a fellow compuphile? Are you helping their cause by answering the

Are there differences here between the dictates of ethics, law,
and pragmatism?

Probing, David.


Date: 26 Jun 85 1840 PDT
From: Les Earnest <L...@SU-AI.ARPA>
Subject: Finger follies and the value of anonymity
To: Thomas....@CMU-CS-C.ARPA

As the originator of Finger, I share many of Tom Finholt's concerns
about privacy [H-N 25 Jun 1985, Vol. 8, Issue 20]. Finger and other
information utilities are being used for unwarranted snooping. As
global networking grows, it becomes increasingly important that this
issue be dealt with. I have a specific proposal, which I discuss
below. First I will review how we got here.

I created Finger in the early '70s to fill some local needs in the
1Stanford A.I. Lab. People generally worked long hours there, often
with unpredictable schedules. When you wanted to meet with some
group, it was important to know who was there and when the others
would likely reappear. It also was important to be able to locate
potential volleyball players when you wanted to play, Chinese food
freaks when you wanted to eat, and antisocial computer users when it
appeared that something strange was happening on the system.

The only tool then available for seeing who was around was a WHO
program that showed IDs and terminal line numbers for people who were
logged in. There was no information available on people who were not
logged in. I frequently saw people running their fingers down the WHO
display saying things like "There's Don and that's Pattie but I don't
know when Tom was last seen." or "Who in hell is VVK and where does
line 63 go?"

I wrote Finger and developed the supporting database to provide this
information in traditional human terms -- real names and places.
Because I preferred to talk face to face rather than through the
computer or telephone, I put in the feature that tells how long the
terminal had been idle, so that I could assess the likelihood that I
would find them there if I walked down the hall.

The program was an instant hit. Some people asked for the Plan file
feature so that they could explain their absense or how they could be
reached at odd times, so I added it. It is interesting to note that
this feature has evolved into a forum for social commentary and
amusing observations.

After a number of other groups copied Finger, the idea arose to
provide a network Finger service. I don't remember who suggested that
but it seemed like a good idea at the time so I stuck it in. Some
other anxious people wanted to be able to verify that their mail was
delivered to specific addressees, so the Mail feature was added by

Some privacy issues surfaced at the beginning. For example, some
people said that they didn't want just anyone to be told when they
last logged out. These people were not very persistent in their
complaints, however. I suspect that many of them discovered that it
is often advantageous to let others know about your phase. In any
case, this issue seemed to die and I didn't do anything about it. I
think perhaps I should have.

Well known people came to be subjected to frequent scrutiny over the
network and received increasing volumes of junk mail. They generally
used one of two countermeasures: logging in under a "nom de hack"
rather than their real name or logging in as themselves but having
their mail files diverted to an associate for screening. A well known
author here chose the latter solution and also adopted a secret ID
that could be used by his associates to send him mail directly.

Another local privacy issue that arose had to do with "screen
mapping." SAIL terminals use television monitors that can be
connected to various computer-generated graphics channels as well as
local television cameras and commercial television stations, complete
with sound. The channel mapping feature is sometimes used to share
information or in seeking consultation ("Hey, map to my screen and
tell me what went wrong"). It also can be used to snoop on what other
people are doing.

In order to deal with the privacy issue we included a system feature
that inhibits mapping to channels that are "hidden." For convenience,
we also poked a small hole through this security barrier by having a
"magic mapping" command that surmounts it. The idea was that you
should be able to violate security when you need to but you should
know that you are doing it. As a check on this process, the local
Finger program labels anyone who is magic-mapped to a channel as a
"SPY * SPY * SPY."

I received a request that Finger identify which channels are hidden.
It appeared to me that there were several socially undesirable ways in
which this information could be used and that it had no legitimate
purpose, so I refused to add it. Nevertheless, while I was away from
Stanford someone else added it to Finger on the grounds that "the
information is available in the system so we might as well show it."
This is a philosophy that I strongly disagree with -- the idea that
people should be assisted in accessing any information that they want
from the system, even if its only plausible use is for snooping.

Now we see increasing use of long distance snooping over the network.
I will confess that I sometimes do it myself. For example, if I am
engaged in a flamefest on an Arpanet discussion group, I sometimes
check on my target until he appears to have logged out and gone to
bed. I then launch an attack that my victim won't be able to counter
until he wakes up and logs in the next day. (Yes, I too am impure.)

I guess I shouldn't give away too many trade secrets here. Let me
simply assert that there are lots of ways of abusing the information
services that computers provide and that we should give more
consideration to privacy protection. In the case of Finger and
related programs, for example, there are at least three features that
could be added in support of personal privacy for those who want it.
I will call these features "scanning logs," "phantomization," and

By "scanning logs" I mean letting people find out who is looking them
over. For people who requested this service, a log would be kept of
the date, time, and identity of anyone who got a Finger report on them
and they could review this log whenever they wanted. Alternatively,
they might ask that the log show just the cases where someone asks
about them individually. If this became a popular feature, of course,
Finger would begin clanking rather badly.

By "phantomization" I mean that the system could be told to pretend
that a given user doesn't exist for the purpose of all inquiries. In
practice, it would likely be necessary to have a "superman override"
to permit administrators to investigate apparent antisocial behavior.

By "anonymity" I mean that a person running in this mode would be
listed as "anonymous" on general Finger and other similar queries. If
such a person were Fingered individually, it would acknowledge that he
exists but would not tell whether or not he is logged in and all
specific information about him would be shown as "unknown."

Of these three possible features, I believe that anonymity would be
the most useful one to add. Given the permeability of most operating
systems, of course, it will continue to be hard to defend against a
determined, snooping wizard. It does not follow, however, that we
should assist all busybodies in snooping on people who value their

A possibly useful variant of the anonymity scheme would be to permit
an individual to be "anonymous" to all network inquiries but
identified for local inquiries. More generally, he might be given the
option of providing a list of people who can be given information
about him.

I strongly advocate providing anonymity in some form for those who
want it. I believe that having privacy in ones computer work should
be regarded as a natural right.

Les Earnest


Date: Wed Jun 26 20:17:19 1985
From: mcb@lll-tis-b (Michael C. Berch)
Subject: "Finger" and privacy

I like to look at "finger" resources as sort of an electronic phone
book, and have found them tremendously useful. Let's make an important
distinction between "mandatory" information (e.g., real name, office
location, terminal location, etc.) that is under the control of a
system administrator or manager, and plan files that people are free
to communicate anything of interest in.

It's imposssible to see how someone could object to the perusal of
plan files -- after all, they are made to be read! On the other hand,
various institutions may put personal information such as home phone
into the the default "finger" report, and this may be objectionable to
some. To extend the phone book analogy further, perhaps there should
be a right to be unlisted -- at least with respect to information that
the sponsoring institution doesn't consider vital to communications
and programmatic work.

There seems to be little historical proof for a "tradition of privacy"
about items like names, job titles, office/terminal location, etc.
While some private firms may hold this information confidential, it
has in my experience been freely available in the
university/government world for many years by way of directories,
telephone switchboards and the like.

Michael C. Berch


Date: Thursday, 27 Jun 1985 06:37:28-PDT
From: redford%avoi...@decwrl.ARPA (John Redford)
To: jlr%avoi...@decwrl.ARPA
Subject: computers are everywhere

The last International Solid State Circuit Conference (the major
conference for VLSI) was held in mid-town Manhattan. I was put up in
a nearby Sheraton, and was startled to find that the rooms there no
longer use keys. Instead, each person is issued a little paper puch
card about two inches long and three-quarters of an inch wide. The
card is inserted into a slot in the doorknob, a little LED blinks, and
the knob can be turned. This has lots of advantages for the hotel:
the locks can be changed much more easily, the cards are very cheap to
produce, and they no longer need worry about patrons taking their keys
with them when they leave.

This came up at one of the evening panel sessions at the
conference. Danny Hillis said: "If you had come to ISSCC in 1975 and
said that by 1985 there would be microprocessors in /doorknobs/, even
we would not have believed you. And yet here they are at our hotels."

John Redford


Date: Mon, 24 Jun 85 15:32:13 cdt
From: Don Kraft <>
Subject: Call for Papers -- NAFIPS Meeting


North American Fuzzy Information Processing Society (NAFIPS)

International Meeting

Monteleone Hotel New Orleans, Louisiana
(In the Heart of the French Quarter)
June 1-4, 1986

Papers on all fuzzy topics are encouraged, and wide
international participation is expected.

Notice of intent with a title and abstract 9/1/85
Completed paper (3 copies) 10/15/85
Notification of acceptance 1/15/86
Camera-ready copy due 3/15/86

Proceedings will be distributed during Conference

Send all abstracts and papers to:

Department of Computer Science
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306

Abraham Kandel and Wyllis Bandler, Program Committee Co-Chairs

Fred Petry and Donald H. Kraft, General Meeting Co-Chairs


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