Techdirt At 25: The Crypto Wars Never End
from the the-long-and-winding-crypto-wars? dept
Next Friday, September 9th, we’ll be hosting our 25th anniversary event. We’ll post the actual details later this week, but the best way to make sure you can attend is to be a regular paying subscriber to Techdirt. You can back us via the qualifying Techdirt Insider packages (Crystal Ball, Watercooler, or Behind the Curtain — or the equivalent levels via our Patreon). And keep watching for more 25th anniversary goodness.
A week ago, we noted that it was the 25th anniversary of Techdirt, which initially began with a (mostly) weekly newsletter, which first went out on August 23, 1997. The second such newsletter went out on August 30, 1997 — or 25 years ago today. You can read it here. Once again, you may notice some themes that have not changed in the past two and a half decades around here…
It kicks off with then Netscape chair Jim Clark declaring “Microsoft, I think, is fundamentally an evil company.” I mean, that sounds like what some smaller companies now say about Google and Facebook.
But one of the things that shines through is that an earlier generation of the crypto wars was in full swing back then. Just as we have government officials here in the US and abroad trying to kill encryption — while insisting that unspeakable evil happens because of it — back then the big fight was Bernstein v. United States, one of EFF’s first huge cases about whether or not you could “export” encryption (in the form of a student publishing a paper that explained his encryption algorithm). And this week 25 years ago, I wrote about a district court ruling in the case. It was one of many such rulings, and the case eventually went up to higher courts as well. Still, I find it notable that all the way back then we were talking about the legality of encryption — and an EFF case!
This week’s newsletter also talked about another encryption scheme, from a company called Cryptologic that was offering a $1 million bounty if anyone could crack their “uncrackable” encryption. I’m not sure what happened with that bounty — but Cryptologic apparently went on to basically focus on the gambling market and appears to have been purchased by a big gambling company somewhere along the way.
Some other echoes of the future: the newsletter talked about criminals swiping credit card numbers from AOL, and Intel facing antitrust concerns over a consolidation purchase. Also, the Clinton administration was calling on websites to not snoop on visitors — and in response a study found that nearly half of all the government’s own websites were… snooping on visitors. I also mocked the brand new Juniper Networks raising a ton of money based on vaporware. Turns out they actually did have a product or two on the way…
There’s more, but it’s pretty amazing to me how many of the themes remain the same — it’s just that many (though not all) of the company names have changed.