Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET)
Archivist: Brendan Kehoe
Retiring Shadow Archivist: Stanton McCandlish
Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth
Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala
Mini-biscuit editor: Guy Demau Passant
CONTENTS, #6.96 (Sun, Nov 5, 1996)
File 1--Other People's E-mail: TO Read or not to Read?
File 2--Denning suggests banning non-escrowed crypto
File 3--Redux: "Does Emiliy really need to read and write?"
File 4--Book Reviews for FREE SPEECH YEARBOOK
File 5--DEF CON II Post-Update Announcement
File 6--Web version of Cu Digest, #6.93, File 1
File 7--Cu Digest Header Information (unchanged since 23 Oct 1994)
CuD ADMINISTRATIVE, EDITORIAL, AND SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION APPEARS IN
THE CONCLUDING FILE AT THE END OF EACH ISSUE.
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 1994 18:54:51 -0600 (CST)
Subject: File *&*--Other People's E-mail: TO Read or not to Read?
OTHER PEOPLE'S E-MAIL: TO READ OR NOT TO READ?
There still seems to be a lot of confusion remaining about if
and when you can properly and legally read another person's
electronic mail. As the number of people going on-line increases,
and the situations where e-mail is used proliferate, the landscape
gets more complicated. Yet, the same basic rule we've always had
for Postal Service mail applies to electronic mail: if the message
isn't addressed to you, don't read it unless you have permission.
If in doubt, don't read other people's mail. Simple enough.
Predictably, the exceptions complicate this simple rule. All
e-mail users should learn the important ones, and systems
administrators should commit them to heart.
THE ECPA. The principal law protecting the privacy of e-mail
is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (the "ECPA"
for short). ECPA is a 1986 federal law that expanded to e-mail the
protections long afforded telephones conversations. The ECPA
makes it a serious crime to read, use or disclose another person's
electronic communications without justification. The ECPA sets the
basic "don't read without permission" rule, along with some
Not only does the ECPA criminalize reading mail without
permission, it also provides a civil remedy for those whose mail
has been read or disclosed. So, even if you can't get law
enforcement interested in prosecuting the person who snooped
through your e-mail, you can sue the snooper in court. If you win,
the snooper pays you damages and pays your attorney's fees. (It
was this civil provision that allowed Steve Jackson Games and its
BBSs users to sue the Secret Service for reading and deleting their
e-mail, and allowed them to collect money from the Service and
force the Service to pay their legal expenses.)
THE ECPA EXCEPTIONS -- DISCLOSURE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT. The
ECPA's restrictions have some exceptions. First, systems
administrators may disclose that mail to law enforcement officials
in response to a subpoena, search warrant or court order without
penalty, *if* the administrator has a good faith belief that the
legal papers are valid. A proper subpoena or search warrant should
particularly identify the electronic files to be seized, and should
identify at least the recipient or sender of the messages sought.
It should not be a broad request for "all electronic mail messages"
on a particular computer, or simply "all computers," especially
when the system to be searched or seized runs a BBS.
THE ECPA EXCEPTIONS -- BUSINESSES. The ECPA does *not*
protect the privacy of a business' internal e-mail. A common
misunderstanding among employees is that law protects the privacy
of internal e-mail. The ECPA does not prevent an employer from
monitoring its employees' electronic mail, just as it does not
prevent an employer from listening in on telephone conversations to
check up on the employee's work.
On the other hand, each state has laws that protect a person's
privacy from unwarranted snooping. Generally, a person's "private"
sphere at work is fairly limited, but an employer who for years
provides private, secure electronic communications among its
employees may have allowed a sphere of privacy to develop. A
sudden, unannounced change to a policy of reading employee e-mail
might then violate state law. The safer practice for an employer
would be to have a clear, written policy stating that company
electronic mail is not private, and that the company retains (or is
reclaiming) the right to review employee mail. Companies with
gateways to outside mail services should be especially clear on
their policy, because, rightly or wrongly, employees will have a
greater expectation of privacy for personal mail they receive from
outside the company, similar to personal letters sent to a work
THE ECPA EXCEPTIONS -- SYSTEM ADMINISTRATORS. The final
important set of exceptions to the ECPA's "don't read without
permission" rule is for the system administrators. System
administrators may "intercept, disclose or use" an electronic
communication when engaged in any activity which is a "necessary
incident" (1) "to the rendition of his service" or (2) "to the
protection of the rights or property of the provider of that
There is some debate on the breadth of these exceptions. No
court case has discussed how they apply to BBSs. I read these
exceptions narrowly, and believe the prudent systems administrator
should too. The ECPA says that these exceptions are *not* a
license to read users' mail at will, or even to spot-check to see
if users are up to no good. The law says that the systems
administrator "shall not utilize service observing or random
monitoring except for mechanical or service quality control
checks." Any spot-checking must be to monitor the system's
*functioning,* not the users' *activities.*
What if a system administrator has specific information that
a certain user might be using e-mail to discuss or even facilitate
a crime? Does that justify nosing through the user's e-mail?
Again, I believe only very narrow circumstances could justify it.
The systems administrator is no more responsible for criminal plots
in e-mail than Ma Bell is for telephone conspiracies. For that
reason, the law need not give the administrator a private-cop badge
to rifle through e-mail and monitor for any signs of crime. While
the ECPA does permit a system administrator to disclose to the
police the contents of an e-mail message that was *inadvertently*
obtained and which appears to pertain to the commission of a crime,
this strongly implies that *intentional* sleuthing by systems
administrators is forbidden.
*If* a systems administrator has specific information that a
user is about to damage the system or crash the service, say with
a virus, the system administrator could justify reviewing that
user's e-mail as a protection to the system. The harder case is if
the administrator suspects that a user's actions might be criminal,
but the only threat to the system is that it might get seized by
law enforcement on account of the user. (Most BBS crime poses no
other threat to the system, as it usually depends on the systems'
continued functioning). Here, the administrator might argue that
the threat of a seizure of the system (and the resulting loss of
property) justifies reading the suspected user's e-mail. At
minimum, however, the ECPA's specific prohibition of random
monitoring would require the system administrator to have good,
solid evidence against the user, not just a vague suspicion or
anonymous claims that something bad is going on.
A good point of reference: Remember that the same law applies
to BBSs and telephone companies. Most people want to limit Ma
Bell's right to monitor phone calls as much as possible. The same
goes for e-mail.
TRYING TO AVOID THESE RULES? The ECPA severely restricts a
systems administrator's access to electronic messages flowing
through his or her system. Some systems administrators try to
avoid this limitation on their nosiness by posting disclaimers
saying "NOTICE: This system does not provide private electronic
communications" or "WARNING: We read your mail. It is not
private." With these warnings, some systems administrators think
they can freely read everyone's e-mail. These warnings are a bad
First, they probably won't do the job. While the facts of the
particular case will matter, such disclaimers probably will not
stand up in court. Judges and juries don't like these "take it or
leave it" ultimatums when it comes to privacy. The disclaimer also
probably isn't true: the system *does* provide mail that is
private from all prying eyes except the systems administrator, and
on any busy system, the administrator *can't* read all the mail,
which may re-create in practice the very expectation of privacy the
administrator is trying to deny.
Second, the disclaimers may make things worse. While trying
to decrease the chance of a user suing the administrator under the
ECPA, the disclaimer will increase the systems administrator's
risks in other areas. An administrator who actually reads his or
her user's e-mail can be charged with knowing its content, and this
increases the potential for successful civil suits for libel, as
well as the danger of criminal prosecution for aiding criminal
activity on the BBS. The administrator can always claim "I didn't
read *that* message," but the system's own words say the opposite.
Worse, if the system is seized by law enforcement, the systems
administrator may lose very helpful allies: the users. When
innocent users try to sue the police for violating *their* rights
under the ECPA, the police will be sure to defend their acts based
on what the system itself told them: no private e-mail here! The
ECPA should be a great deterrent against the wholesale seizure of
BBSs; systems administrators diminish that deterrent by using these
Finally, what possible reason, other than plain rude nosiness,
justifies reading other people's mail? The law not only imposes no
responsibility to read or monitor mail flowing through a system, it
prohibits it. System administrators who fear criminal
responsibility for what their users are discussing in e-mail are as
wrong as if Southwestern Bell was worried about being held
responsible for crimes committed over their phone system.
A tough question: What about users' personal file directories
on BBS's? Many BBSs, Internet providers, and other computer
systems provide their users file storage areas. Some systems call
and treat these areas as "private." Would it violate the ECPA if
the system administrator nosed through the files in a user's area?
It's common for users to write e-mail to a file and store it,
making them "stored electronic communications" covered by the ECPA.
If the ECPA protects the privacy of these files from snooping by
system administrators, doesn't the ECPA clash with the developing
strict liability for system administrators for copyright
infringement -- who are now being held liable for infringing files
whether or not they knew they were on the system? (See Legal
Bytes, Vol. 2, No. 1, "BBS System Operators' Liability for
Copyright Infringement: Let the Sysop Beware"). How does a system
administrator avoid unknowingly harboring infringing computer
files? The solution *probably* lies in the system administrator
gaining proper consent from the user, before the fact, to monitor
these files, but the authors honestly haven't worked through this
difficult question yet.
LEGAL BYTES is a (usually) quarterly publication of
George, Donaldson & Ford, L.L.P., Austin, Texas.
George, Donaldson & Ford, L.L.P.
114 W. Seventh Street, Suite 1000
Austin, Texas 78701
David H. Donaldson, Jr., Editor
Peter D. Kennedy, Associate Editor
Send mail to legal-bytes-Request@io.com with the words
"subscribe legal-bytes" in the message _body_.
Date: 1 Nov 1994 09:01:50 -0500
From: email@example.com (Shabbir J. Safdar)
Subject: File *&*--Denning suggests banning non-escrowed crypto
Wiretap Watch - post-bill note
November 1, 1994
Distribute Widely - (until November 30, 1994)
Dr. Denning sees restrictions on non-escrowed crypto as an obvious
possibility if Clipper sinks
I attended the NYU Law School symposium on "rights in cyberspace" last
Friday (Oct. 27, 1994) here in New York. There were three panels. On
the mid afternoon panel, the topic was regulating state access to
Panelists included Oliver Smoot (attribution forgotten), Dr. Dorothy
Denning (famous key escrow proponent), Steven Cherry (Voters Telecomm
Watch spokesperson), and J Beckwith Burr (who was not a rep of the
EFF, but gave a synopsis of their position).
Dr. Denning gave a chillingly calm description of key escrow, and then
the panelists as a whole answered questions. At one point the subject
arose of just how "voluntary" Clipper really could be, seeing as the
public and industry had overwhelmingly rejected it. Who will use a
voluntary standard that nobody likes?
The consensus of the key-escrow opponents on the panel seemed to be
Dr. Denning, speaking for herself and not as a spokesperson for the
Administration, stated that if alternate non-escrowed encryption
became prevalent, the next step would be to implement "restrictions"
on non-escrowed technology.
I think its safe to assume that Dr. Denning wasn't speaking of secret
plot to ban private crypto; she was just commenting on the obvious:
The Administration & Law Enforcement wants access to *all*
communications. While they'll play "nice" now, they won't be so nice
if you don't go along with them. It's going to get ugly down the
road, and HR 5199 could be the panacea.
What can you do?
-Get to know your legislator.
Just as the DT bill was railroaded through, there may not be a big
chance of stopping 5199, a bill that could put into legislation the
govt's key escrow program, making it a NIST standard. You must
convince your legislator that a little privacy is a good thing. Non-
escrowed crypto will not bring back all the privacy you've lost in the
last 50 years. It will bring back some. Some is better than none, and
it maintains the balance between law enforcement interests and privacy
Learn who your legislators are. Put their phone numbers on a scrap of
paper and keep them in your wallet or purse. This will encourage you to
call next session during one of the crucial moments.
-Save your money.
There are a lot of organizations around that you can join that will
represent your interests in Congress. Consider whether you should
instead save your money and give it directly to a legislator with a
good record on privacy and cryptography. Several such legislators
were recently identified in the VTW (Voters Telecomm Watch) 1993/1994
-Join the VTW announcements mailing list.
Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be subscribed to vtw-announce.
We will be carefully tracking HR 5199 next session with the same
frenetic precision we applied to Rep. Maria Cantwell's Cryptography
Exports bill and the FBI's Wiretap/Digital Telephony bill.
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 1994 02:47:59 -0500
Subject: File *&*--Redux: "Does Emiliy really need to read and write?"
I wanted to respond to, and strongly agree with, Scott Straw's
comments in CUD 6.92, "Does Emily really need to read and write
in 2020?" which were actually a response to an earlier invitation
from Seattle Times reporter Kurt Dahl to send in comments on this
The level of basic English skills on the Internet, and especially
on local BBSs, is appalling. And adding to the problem is the
unwritten but sometimes hinted at rule that "flaming someone for
his or her grammar/spelling is verbotten."
Perhaps flaming isn't the right approach, but errors and poor
usage are so prevalent that new net citizens are unlearning what
has been taught in school. (It could possibly be argued that it
was never taught in the first place).
When I see corporate billboards, form letters from companies, and
personal correspondence from businesses I deal with that are
loaded with spelling errors, serious grammatical mistakes, and
other abuses of the language, it's very disturbing to think that
children learning to read will see these same items and learn
incorrect usage. But when these same children - - or adults, for
that matter - - get on the net, the problem becomes much worse. I
have read, attempted to read, or passed over countless posts,
some of them quite long and pointed, that suffer from so much
grammatical misuse and so many spelling/punctuation mistakes that
they are absolutely unintelligible.
In fact, being curious about the responses I'd receive, I posted
a note a year or so ago on a popular local BBS that attempted to
clear up the differences between commonly misused English words
such as "there, their, and they're," and "your and you're." It
wasn't condescending, nor was it flame-style. The responses
received ranged from "This is helpful" to "Fuck you and the PC
you rode in on," but they mostly consisted of the latter.
The headline news servers for AOL, CompuServe, and other online
services (they seem to all use the same headline service) push
out articles that are laced with mistakes and misusages. A few
examples from just one day in January of this year that I saved
to disk for some reason:
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Inman withdraws nomination, blasts "New McCarthyism"
WASHINGTON (JAN. 18) DPA - Bobby Ray Inman, President Bill
Clinton's choice to become the next U.S. Secretary of
Defence announced Tuesday that he was withdrawing his
nomination rather than become a victim of what he called the
~ ~ ~Defense is spelled with an "s" and not a "c."
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Cold virus to be used to fight disease NEW YORK (JAN. 18)
XINHUA - U.S. RESEARCHERS ARE TRYING TO REFORM COLD VIRUS'S
EVIL WAYS TO FIGHT DISEASE . . . THE RESEARCHERS SAID THAT
THEY HOPE TO USE THE VIRUS TO FERRY HE HUMAN BODY GENERALLY
INACCESSIBLE TO MODERN MEDICINES.
~ ~ ~What? This sentence makes no sense whatsoever.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
California Earthquake could cost LLoyd's around $6 billion
LONDON (JAN. 18) XINHUA - THE EARTHQUAKE IN LOS ANGELES
COULD COST LLOYD'S OF LONDON, THE WORLD LARGEST INSURANCE
MARKET, ABOUT SIX BILLION U.S. DOLLARS, A LLOYD'S SPOKESMAN
. . .
ANALYSTS SAID ONLY 15 TO 20 PERCENT OF BUILDINGS IN
CALIFORNIA HAD EARTHQUAKE INSURANCE, BECAUSE OF THE HIGH
COST OF COVER, AND MANY WERE QUAKE-PROOF.
LLOYD'S IS A SPECIALIST IN DISASTER COVER. IT SCATTERS RISK
TO INSURERS ELSEWHERE IN A PRECESS KNOWN AS REINSURANCE.
~ ~ ~It's _coverage_ (both paragraphs), and _process_.
. . .
THE EARTHQUAKE, MEASURED 6.6 ON THE RECHTER SCALE AND KILLED
33, IS THE MOST DEVASTATING SINCE THE 1989 SAN FRANCISCO
QUAKE THAT KILLED 64 AND COST INSURERS ALMOST ONE BILLION
~ ~ ~Should be "The earthquake, _which_ measured" etc.
~ ~ ~_Richter_, not Rechter_
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Granted, the people typing these in are probably minimum wage workers
who are being forced to do it so quickly that any checking for
mistakes would be impossible. But these kinds of mistakes would NEVER
be tolerated in the printed media; why should the online world be any
different, especially services that we PAY for?
And before the flames start, I am not some anal retentive computer
geek looking to harp on people just to be a pain in the collective
ass; to understand each other in the online world (or anywhere that
some form of intellectual communication is necessary to relate to
others), some basic rules must be agreed upon. If those rules are are
thrown out the window, the chances for misunderstandings abound and
the ability to communicate AT ALL is compromised.
When you add the International aspect of the net to the equation, then
it gets hairy, and I do not support requiring someone in Iceland to
write perfect English; but then, if WE OURSELVES can't write even
decent English, then how can we expect to communicate effectively with
someone who is just learning the language, or vice versa?
Does Emily need to read and write in the year 2020? Undoubtedly, yes.
But will she be able to, if the majority of her education in the
language comes from the net? Unlikely.
Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 14:50:20 -0500
From: sross@CRAFT.CAMP.CLARKSON.EDU(SUSAN M. ROSS)
Subject: File *&*--Book Reviews for FREE SPEECH YEARBOOK
As Book Review Editor of FREE SPEECH YEARBOOK, I am writing to
request reviews of books concerning free speech issues related to
FREE SPEECH YEARBOOOK has been sponsored by the Commission on Freedom
of Expression of the Speech Communication Association since 1961 and
has been published by Southern Illinois University Press since 1987.
Our book reviews traditionally have been 4-7 pages, double spaced.
Manuscripts should be prepared according to ether the MLA Handbook
(Modern Language Association) or A Uniform System of Citation. A
review that evaluates the book rather than merely provides a summary
of its contents is genrally preferred.
Final manuscripts of book reviews are due by January 15, 1995. Please
mail them to: S. M. Ross, Department of Technical Communications, Box
5760, Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York 13699-5760
E-mail inquiries are welcome. To suggest a book and/or a reviewer,
please post to: email@example.com or
Date: Sun, 25 Sep 1994 18:07:33 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: File *&*--DEF CON II Post-Update Announcement
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XX DEF CON Mailing List Announcement
XXXXXXXxxxxXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XX DEF CON Mailing List Announcement
XXXXXXxxxxxxXXXXXX X X DEF CON Mailing List Announcement
XXxxxxxxxxxxxxxxXXXXXX XX X Freeside Communications is also home of
XXXXxxxxxxxxxxXXXXXXXX X XX The DEF CON FTP site and WWW Pages
XXXXXxxxxxxxxXXXXXXXXXX XX X
XXXXXXxxxxxxXXXXXXXXX X DEF CON Mailing List Announcement
XXXXXXXxxxxXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX DEF CON Mailing List Announcement
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX DEF CON Mailing List Announcement
GREAT! I've got it done finally. After all the mis setp, etc, the
mailing lists are finally up and running. DEF CON II is over and I am back
in school and finally getting things in shape. Thanks to everyone who
A couple of announcements:
> The con went well, even though more of you showed up than expected! I'll
be ready next year. We had about 370 people, and only $200 in damage I
had to pay. Not bad!
[> The mailing lists are up! <]
[> mail firstname.lastname@example.org with "subscribe dc-announce" in the body of the
[> message to join the announcement list. "subscribe dc-stuff" for the
[> chat list.
THE FTP SITE IS MOVING to fc.net in /pub/defcon from cyberspace.com.
IF YOU HAVE ANY PICTURES FROM THE CON please mail duplicates to me! I can
scan them and add them on the ftp and www pages. aleph1 is maintaing the
DEF CON www site now. If you can't mail them, please try to scan them
and then send me the scans. If you have old DEF CON I pics, send them too,
we're tring to rebuild that section too.
> I have tapes of the whole convention for sale. They consist of 10(!)
90 minute tapes, $32.90 for a set. There are taken from the DAT recordings,
and all by Dead Addicts speech are nice and clear. You'll remember the mess
up, we re-dubbed DA's speech from a pocket recorder, so he is in mono.. but
you can understand everything.
> I have about 20 long sleeve white shirts left, about 1/2 old style 1/2
new style. They are three color front, two color back and $22.90 (that
extra 2.90 is for postage)
> If enough demand comes in for the other color shirts I will reprint them.
We are starting to plan for next year, and if you would like to get involved,
please mail email@example.com.
Mail stuff to:
2709 E. Madison #102
Seattle, WA, 98112
Thanks, and see you on the list! There will be no more mailing by this list.
If you want to stay up on things, please subscribe to the mailing lists.
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Subject: File *&*--Web version of Cu Digest, #6.93, File 1
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 94 19:12:54 MDT
From: Mark Atwood
I made a HTML hypertext page out of CUD 6.93 File 1. You can point
your browser at http://www.cs.utah.edu/~matwood/govt-gophers.html
for easy access to all the listed gopher servers.
Hope this is of use.
Mark Atwood | My school and employer have too many problems
firstname.lastname@example.org | without being blamed for mine.
PGP Fingerprint = BD 97 2A F6 74 C2 F2 CB A7 71 40 BB 4C 9D F9 8B
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1994 22:51:01 CDT
From: CuD Moderators
Subject: File *&*--Cu Digest Header Information (unchanged since 23 Oct 1994)
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