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Re: [Taler] Money with capabilities

From: Christian Grothoff
Subject: Re: [Taler] Money with capabilities
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2021 13:59:02 +0200
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On 8/27/21 12:01 AM, Jacob Bachmeyer wrote:
> There was once a well-understood principle that making tools that help
> oppressive regimes is bad.  Where has that gone?

Well, the oppressive regimes of Europe that I care about often justify
the introduction of new measures with the protection of children. So
indeed, "for the children" is a justification we need to be careful
with, as this is the topic where authoritarians of the political left
and right meet to abolish civil liberties.

However, as there is this broad social consensus that children deserve
various kinds of protection by the state --- and it is unlikely that we
will overturn that consensus --- we could try to see what choices
society has or could have to realize such protections.

So what the alternatives are that are being actively pursued in this

Today, shops perform age verification by requiring the buyer to supply
digital identification. For example, you may have to submit a copy of
your passport to a Web site to prove that you are an adult. This is bad,
because it is incompatible with anonymous purchases, sensitive personal
information may ends up in some databases and leaked all over the place,
adults without government ID may be barred from participation, and
parents cannot easily grant their children an exception to these rules.

For the future, governments are almost universally working on the
introduction of some form of electronic ID (e-ID), which is first
justified to protect children online (pornography (e-ID for video
sites), alcohol (e-ID for shopping), hate speech (e-ID for social
networks), fake news (e-ID for news sites), scans (e-ID for
e-mail/messaging) ...) and then threatens to become something that
you'll need to use the Internet. In the EU, they will probably put a
fig-leaf on it with some selective-disclosure crypto that then likely
nobody will actually implement correctly.

In either case, the existing situation harms the (limited) informational
self-determination of children, the ability of parents to provide
child-specific oversight, and all adults that have their data caught in
the protect-the-children dragnet.

Now, the slogan "just do not protect the children" is unlikely going to
work, that strategy has failed very badly so far. With age-restrictions
set on the customer's device by the customer at the time of withdrawal,
we may have an opportunity to say: give the parents a way to protect
their children as they see fit (including protecting their children's
personal information), and do not leak any information in the process,
and do not make it easy for anyone to turn this into a surveillance
tool. Sure, legal guardians can use this to restrict their wards,
possibly in an abusive way --- however, if you have a tyrannical legal
guardian you already have a problem today that is not easy to solve for

And as far as the government goes, well, as long as the restrictions
must be set on the individual user's device, I do not see how this would
give *governments* any new oppressive powers. Sure, the government (or
the bad Apple Inc) may take control of your PC or smartphone, but than
_that_ is the oppressive power we need to worry about, not the
age-restriction feature implemented in Free Software on the customer's
device under the customer's control where even the fact that the feature
was used or not used is not visible to third parties. (If a merchant
requires a proof of age that the child cannot satisfy, the transaction
would simply be aborted by the wallet, which cannot be distinguished
from the customer simply deciding to not make the purchase.)

My 2 cents


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