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Re: Negative reputations
interesting discussion. Thank you.
I won't repeat the things Jim mentioned in his reply. However, I was a little concerned about your reference to the SSN. There are a number of people who absolutely refuse to give out their SSN, unless required by law (e.g., to a bank for a new account or employer for paychecks) precisely to avoid the kind of tracking you're describing.
I'm not sure you can always present a non-negative certificate. If you're about to be elevated to deacon of your on-line Baptist congregation and they require proof that you have never rented an on-line porno flick -- how could they be sure you computed such a certificate unless the whole world went non-anonymous, not voluntarily but manditorily?
Do we want to find a way to make it possible to demand such proofs -- and apply our mathematical skills to making that proof unspoofable? AFAICT, that unspoofability would be a very new thing in Society.
At least in the US, probably elsewhere, it has always been possible to pick up and move to a new community to get a fresh start if something you've done has started to haunt you among your neighbors. Online, you don't have any other Internet to move to (nor do you want one), but you do have a new nym you can make. Witness the search for Detweiler in sci.crypt (or was it cypherpunks). The nym changed but message characteristics stayed the same.
Then again, what if there was a real change -- so the new messages bore no relation to the old ones. Wouldn't the new nym be effectively a true new person, as far as the net was concerned? What happens with people who truly reform? Are we as a net society going to make it possible for people to start over with a clean slate or not? If not, we might be creating a monster.
Then there are abusers who just change names to avoid detection. It would be nice if we could establish trust in a source of material and not have to scan the material itself (program, web page, message to newsgroup, ...) for offensive content. We're not very good at scanning content.
My belief is that we need to get very good at scanning content and not rely on a desire to black-list offenders. There is a reason Society doesn't execute pickpockets.