TBTF for 9/1/97: Few and far

Keith Dawson (dawson@world.std.com)
Sun, 31 Aug 1997 23:09:09 -0500


TBTF for 9/1/97: Few and far

T a s t y B i t s f r o m t h e T e c h n o l o g y F r o n t

Timely news of the bellwethers in computer and communications
technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994

Your Host: Keith Dawson

This issue: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/09-01-97.html >

C o n t e n t s

US encryption export rules declared unconstitutional
Push comes to shove: Novadigm sues Marimba
Using trademarked names to fool search engines
The excesses of personal data collection
Growth of Internet hosts flattens
Find LGMs at home in your spare cycles

..US encryption export rules declared unconstitutional

On Monday 8/25 a Federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the Com-
merce Department's export controls on encryption products violate
the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech. In a 35-page find
ing [1], U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel reaffirmed her De-
cember 1996 decision [2] against the regulations then administered
by the State Department, saying that the newer Commerce Department
rules suffer from similar constitutional flaws.

Patel barred the government from "threatening, detaining, prose-
cuting, discouraging, or otherwise interfering with" anyone "who
uses, discusses, or publishes or seeks to use, discuss or publish
plaintiff's encryption programs and related materials." Daniel
Bernstein, now a math professor at the University of Illinois,
filed the lawsuit in 1995 with the help of the Electronic Fron-
tier Foundation.

On 8/28, at the request of Justice Department lawyers, Judge Patel
issued a stay of this injunctive relief, but said she will reinstate
the part of the injunction that allows Professor Bernstein himself
to discuss and publish his own "Snuffle" encryption code.

How significant is this ruling? A concensus is emerging that the
judgement was worded too narrowly to have much impact in the short
term, but if upheld could be a significant precedent in future
cases. The decision doesn't block enforcement of U.S. crypto export
rules, but permanently bars the government from trying to stop
Bernstein or anyone else from posting or discussing his particular
cryptographic program, Snuffle. The judge delivered a mild slap to
the Clinton administration for moving encryption export licenses
from the State to Commerce Department in December. "The government
cannot avoid the constitutional deficiencies of its regulations by
rotating oversight of them from department to department," she

A sampling from the flood of sound bytes captured by the online press
after last Monday's ruling:

> "The bottom line is that Bernstein wins," said Michael
> Froomkin, an associate professor specializing in encryption
> at the University of Miami's School of Law. "But I'm not
> sure this would apply to a commercial product." [3]

> Stewart Baker, the former general counsel at the National
> Security Agency and a partner at the law firm Steptoe &
> Johnson, concurred that if upheld, the decisions would
> likely cause the restrictions to crumble. "I would expect
> lower courts to have great difficulty distinguishing PGP's
> publication from what Bernstein has done with Snuffle," he
> said. "The decisions may so weaken the strength of the
> regulatory program that the program collapses." [3]

> Officials at the Electronic Frontier Foundation went further,
> saying in a statement "The decision knocks out a major part of
> the Clinton administration's effort to force companies to de-
> sign government surveillance into computers, telephones and
> consumer electronics." They went on to call the ruling "a vic-
> tory for free speech, academic freedom, human rights and the
> prevention of crime." [4]

Here is other coverage of the story, in decreasing order of clue-
fulness: [5],[6],[7],[8].

[1] http://www.eff.org/pub/Legal/Cases/Bernstein_v_DoS/Legal/970825_decision.images/page-images.html
[2] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/10-24-1996.html
[3] http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,13745,00.html
[4] http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/content/zdnn/0826/zdnn0007.html
[5] http://www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/6397.html
[6] http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayStory.pl?970826.eencrypt.htm
[7] http://www.yahoo.com/headlines/970826/tech/stories/encrypt_1.html
[8] http://www.nando.net/newsroom/ntn/info/082697/info1_21782_noframes.html

..Push comes to shove: Novadigm sues Marimba

On 8/25 Marimba submitted its application, distribution, and repli-
cation protocols to the World Wide Web Consortium for consideration
as standards, with the backing of Novell, Netscape, and Sun [9],
[10]. Together these protocols form the base of Marimba's "push"
technology; they make it possible to reduce Net traffic by sending
only the bits that change over the wires. The next day Novadigm
filed suit [11]. This company claims, effectively, to have patented
the techniques known in the Unix world as diff and rdist. Can
you say "prior art?" Novadigm's domain name was registered in 1994.
Unix has existed since the late 60s. I don't know at what point diff
and rdist were introduced, but a conservative guess would be the

[10] http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayStory.pl?970827.enovadigm.htm
[11] http://www.novadigm.com/aB5.htm

..Using trademarked names to fool search engines

The law firm of Oppedahl & Larson, which holds the domain name
patents.com, has filed a lawsuit [12] against three companies and
the ISPs that provide them with Web space and name service. The
suit claims that the three sites -- prowebsite.com [13], codeteam-
.com [14], and advancedconcepts.com (whose home page is currently
blank) -- used the words of their trademarked name, "Oppedahl"
and "Larson," in their Meta tags on Web pages in order to draw
traffic to their sites from search engines. None of the 11 URLs
listed in the suit now displays any such words in Meta tags or
elsewhere (most in fact return Error 404 messages). The law firm
discovered the offenses from Alta Vista searches (example at [15]),
and has preserved the source code for each of the 11 claims on
their site (see for example [16]).

After Declan McCullagh spread word of this case on his fight-
censorship mailing list, Gant Redmon <gredmon@gantgroup.com> wrote
of his own earlier experience in the same arena.

> As counsel to Axent Technologies, I have already tagged a com-
> petitor for putting our name in its Meta file. It drew people
> looking for us to our competitor. The rule in trademark law is
> that you have violated a person's trademark when you use that
> trademark to cause confusion in the marketplace. It says no-
> thing about seeing the mark. What they are doing is intentional
> and wrong. I was thrilled to shut down their deceptive activity.
> It has nothing to do with freedom of expression. It has a lot
> to do with being slimy.

[12] http://www.ljx.com/internet/
[13] http://www.prowebsite.com/
[14] http://www.codeteam.com/
[15] http://www.patents.com/ac/eb.sht
[16] http://www.patents.com/ac/ed.txt

..The excesses of personal data collection

The large US collectors and resellers of personal data on American
citizens permit each person to buy a copy of his/her own record from
time to time. (This is big of them, don't you think?) In California
they are forbidden by law to charge for this personal service but in
other states they do. One of the large data-collection companies,
Experian (formerly TRW), set up a Web page from which people could
pay using a credit card to view their own data. Sounds friendly so
far. But they got the CGI code slightly wrong and at least four
people viewed the private record of some other individual. Experian
withdrew the online service within a few days. Dan Gillmor, computing
editor at the SJ Mercury News, outlines this snafu and other recent
encroachments on personal privacy in an article entitled "Sale of
personal data will grow until we rebel" [17]. He writes:

> The combination of the Net and increasingly powerful computers
> and software properly feeds public angst about the availability
> of personal information to all comers.

Two years ago Ram Avrahami sued U.S. News & World Report under the
laws of the state of Virginia for selling his name to Smithsonian
magazine [18]. He lost, partly because he didn't prove to the
judge's satisfaction that his name had value, and partly because he
had used a variant of his name to find out who had sold his personal
data. Now Avrahami plans to found an advocacy group, to be called The
Named, to assert the individual's right to control the use of his/her
personal data. This effort lines up with the American Civil Liber-
ties Union's launch last month of its "Take Back Your Data" campaign

[17] http://www.sjmercury.com/business/gillmor/docs/dg082497.htm
[18] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/10-24-95.html
[19] http://www.aclu.org/action/tbyd.html

..Growth of Internet hosts flattens

The Internet is still expanding, but by one measure its period of
exponential growth may be over. Tony Rutkowski of Net Wizards has
published a twice-yearly snapshot of Internet growth [20] since
1990. Though the current graph [21] looks exponential to my eye,
Rutkowski says that close analysis reveals since January 1996 a
heeling over of the growth curve from exponential to linear. A good
least-squares fit puts the growth rate at 52% per year -- 18,339
new hosts per day -- during this period. Rutkowski attributes the
slowdown to the increasing tendency to hide large numbers of hosts
behind firewalls, to outsource services, and to share common hosts.
Rutkowski writes:

> As the Internet scaled through its seventh order of magnitude,
> it was apparent that the growth could not remain exponential
> indefinitely.

These data speak only to the number of directly reachable computers
on the Internet, and don't reflect the numbers of users, domain
names, or Web servers. Growth in Web servers continues on an expo-
nential trend, currently at an annual rate of 256%, according to
the same report.

[20] http://www.nw.com/zone/WWW/report.html
[21] http://www.nw.com/zone/hosts.gif

..Find LGMs at home in your spare cycles

LGMs are little green men. The first pulsar -- now understood to be
a rapidly rotating neutron star -- was discovered by Jocelyn Bell in
1967 at Jodrell Bank observatory in England. (Her supervisor Anthony
Hewish shared the 1974 Nobel Prize for the discovery, but Bell was
not recognized.) The scientists withheld publication for 7 months
because they had no explanation for the regular, beacon-like signal.
They joked among themselves that its cause must be "little green

The sober search for extraterrestrial intelligence, called SETI, is
now approaching its 38th year. The radio telescope in Green Banks,
West Virginia that Frank Drake first employed in the hunt in 1961
is again on the job; and it's being joined by the 300-meter instru-
ment [22] built into a tropical valley in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
Drake's modest Project Ozma inflamed the imagination of Carl Sagan,
then a young scientist, who five years later co-authored "Intelli-
gent Life In the Universe" [23] with the Russian astronomer I. S.
Shklovskii. (Originally Sagan signed on as editor of the English
translation of Shklovskii's book "Universe, Life, Mind," but his
notes and additions grew so copious -- finally equalling the ori-
ginal in bulk -- that Sagan was promoted to co-author.)

For a short while the US government funded SETI research, but all
current US projects are privately supported. Ongoing work includes
the SETI Institute's Project Phoenix [24] and the UC Berkeley-based
SERENDIP [25]. Working with data from the latter effort, a group
called Big Science [26],[27] is developing software to harness the
spare cycles of hundreds of thousands of Internet-connected compu-
ters to look for a needle of signal in a haystack the size of the
galaxy. This diagram (52 KB) shows how it will work [28]. Data will
start flowing to specially developed screensavers on networked com-
puters next spring. By the time 50,000 PCs are involved, the scope
of the search will rival all current SETI projects. The SETI @ home
page [29] ends with a plea:

> Aliens: If you're reading this, you can save us a lot of
> trouble with one simple email!

[22] http://www.naic.edu/
[23] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0816279136
[24] http://www.seti-inst.edu/
[25] http://sag-www.ssl.berkeley.edu/serendip/
[26] http://www.bigscience.com/home.html
[27] http://www4.cdnow.com/cgi-bin/mserver/pagename=/RP/CDN/FIND/album.html/ArtistID=FRN-ANDERSON*LAURIE/ddcn=SD-7599+3674+2
[28] http://www.bigscience.com/dataflow.html
[29] http://www.bigscience.com/setiathome.html

N o t e s

> Today's TBTF title comes from the Edward Lear nonsense poem "The Jum-
blies," which begins

Few and far, far and few
Are the lands where the Jumblies live:
Their heads are green and their hands are blue;
And they went to sea in a sieve.

The Lear verse forms the lead-in to chapter 29 of "Intelligent Life
in the Universe" [23], which walks the reader through the now-class-
ical estimation of the number of technological civilizations in our
galaxy. (Result: using guesses that looked reasonable in 1966, some-
where between 50,000 and 1 million, separated on average by a few
hundred to 1,000 light-years.) To Sagan, apparently Lear's rhyme en-
capsulated the folly of casting fragile living bodies into the void,
when radio signals would serve nearly as well.

> This morning TBTF welcomed its first subscriber from Kenya -- the
second on the African continent, that I'm aware of, outside of
South Africa. (My brother reads TBTF in Cameroon. He used to dial
a US number to read mail, but there is now a local ISP in Yaounde.)
By the time you read this the direct email subscriber base will
likely exceed 4,000, in 72 countries [30].

[30] ttp://www.tbtf.com/growth.html

S o u r c e s

> For a complete list of TBTF's (mostly email) sources, see
< http://www.tbtf.com/sources.html >.

> fight-censorship -- mail fight-censorship-announce-request@vorlon.mit-
.edu without subject and with message: subscribe . Web home at
< http://www.eff.org/~declan/fc/ >.

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Keith Dawson dawson@world.std.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

Version: 2.6.2, by FileCrypt 1.0