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logical semantics and crypto handle ambiguous names

 Do we need unique names on the Internet? Or, unambiguous names? 
 Or, local SDSI/SPKI names?

No. And, surprisingly, the solution may solve another historical flaw
in public-carrier communications.

No one needs a unique name over the Internet, nor a unique e-mail
address, nor even a un-ambiguous name in order to be uniquely
identified. Neither globally nor locally. Everyone can use their own
common names if they so wish, or any pseudonym they desire. This note
shows that this is not an issue for security -- while a recurring
subject, an Internet myth.

The solution depends on two well-established developments: logical
semantics and public-key crypto. Logical semantics, not very
well-known, was pioneered by Frege and recognizes that a common name
has two quite independent components: reference and sense, where the
names's reference is its syntactic value and the name's sense is its
semantic value. In other words, a name is viewed as a logical
proposition which two independent attributes, the name's sense
representing the name's truth conditions and the name's reference
representing the name's truth values. Thus, as fully described in the
paper http://www.mcg.org.br/trustdef.htm/#A.4.3, the semantic theory
advanced by Frege shows that an unlimited number of entities can
share the same reference (i.e., the same syntactic expression, such
as "John Smith") and yet each one can be uniquely identified by their
sense (i.e., each referent can be uniquely reached if and only each
referent has a unique sense). The question is, how to convey the
different senses?

To show how that is possible one needs two results, first: 

- the paper proves that certificates can fully carry references, but
not sense -- not even partially and however minute. While this
provides an irrefutable mathematical reason for the total uselessness
of certificates to convey sense, it also shows that certificates can
wholly contain the name's reference -- securely and as detailed as

- the paper proves further that the link between the
wholly-transported reference and sense is provided by "proper trust",
an essential mathematical property in communication systems (as
defined in the main section of the paper).

Thus, in the same way that happens today but has not been
mathematically proved before, even though intuitively felt by many, a
certificate is only meaningful (i.e., has meaning or, sense) when
there is some degree of trust associated with its signature and, each
one of the certificate's data is meaningful inasmuch as it is
atomically trusted to some extent. Which points out the key role
played by trust in certification, in spite of the rethoric being
usually centered on the syntactic aspects of its encoding,
cryptography and name schemes.

So, an entity's name can be ambiguous as long as the sense is not
ambiguous. References are securely transported by cryptographic
certificates and the link between sense and reference is provided by
"proper trust". However, how can that be deemed useful now, when
contacting different referents that have the same reference?

This question leads to the essential role played by crypto, which is
not only a basis for certification but is also needed to provide for

The final step is simple. Clearly, one hundred people could share
exactly the same name and e-mail address and yet each could receive
and send unique and private messages by using different crypto keys
-- which have been uniqely assigned in the first step.

Now, even though common names are just references, they are however
good hooks for those keys. But if you go to the wrong hook by mistake
or because of name overloading ... no problem, the key will differ.

Thus, contrary to widespread belief, there is no reason to demand
unique names or addresses in order to afford Internet security. The
world can continue to use its historical practices. Clearly, if
something or someone has a globally unique name then, that is
advantageous just like a globally trademarked name is useful -- by
providing zero collisions.  But, as above, any number of collisions
can be handled by proper cryptography and proper trust.

Clearly, this presents also a side benefit of enforcing by protocol
at least some minimum form of point to point cryptographic
certification and encryption in day to day communications -- which
would tend to make it essential and thus to be accepted by law and
granted worldwide as everyone's basic right to be identifiable, since
there is no other technical solution (the paper proves in other
sections that biometrics and even bio-implants cannot provide a
solution either). To the effect that privacy and security can come as
a bonus from the technology, allowing communication engineering to
correct telephony's mistake of providing easy access to security and
privacy breaches. Which solves the historical flaw in public-carrier
communications: they are also content-public, with eavesdropping

There are other benefits to this approach, not the least being the
"household effect" -- where crypto can become a household word and
thus deserving to be widely accepted without the psychological blocks
that derive from its historical use by criminals, spies, and other
despicable abuses.

As an example of technology's reach by the household effect, not long
ago possession of a simple radio receiver had to be registered with
proper authorities in some countries and possession of even weak
radio transmitters demanded a license -- possession of a transmitter
was viewed with suspicion, criminalized. But with transistors it
became evident that any $5.00 could allow one to make either a
receiver or a transmitter, which lead the way to its present better
and un-criminal status. The same can happen with crypto, as it can
cost less than $5.00 and can be as essential to day to day life.
It depends on the technical community to show that to the general
public, communication companies, e-businesses, and governments. 
Crypto is in everyone's best interest and, when linked with "proper
trust", can completely solve the current name and address ambiguity
that plagues the Internet and e-business, while providing both an
irrefutable reason and a good argument to restore privacy to one's
private communications.

To those that may argue that "proper trust" is not so easy to grasp
and is a weak point, it is easy to point out that this is not a
feature of the method, but a feature of sense. Sense cannot be
transported in certificates, even if the certificate includes a
thousand references and even if you have a thousand certificates, all
from different issuers. The paper provides a full mathematically
rigorous discussion of why the referential theory of meaning fails,
as initially proved by Frege, and why certificates can just transport
references, never sense. Thus, certificates have no meaning per se --
even with so-called unique names, notwithstanding the names being
local or global.

Comments welcome.


Dr.rer.nat. E. Gerck                     egerck@novaware.cps.softex.br
    --- Meta-Certificate Group member, http://www.mcg.org.br ---