The Cypherpunk Manifesto

                   A Cypherpunk's Manifesto

                        by Eric Hughes

Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age.  
Privacy is not secrecy.  A private matter is something one doesn't  
want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one  
doesn't want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively  
reveal oneself to the world.  

If two parties have some sort of dealings, then each has a memory of  
their interaction.  Each party can speak about their own memory of  
this; how could anyone prevent it?  One could pass laws against it,  
but the freedom of speech, even more than privacy, is fundamental to  
an open society; we seek not to restrict any speech at all.  If many  
parties speak together in the same forum, each can speak to all the  
others and aggregate together knowledge about individuals and other  
parties.  The power of electronic communications has enabled such  
group speech, and it will not go away merely because we might want it  

Since we desire privacy, we must ensure that each party to a  
transaction have knowledge only of that which is directly necessary  
for that transaction.  Since any information can be spoken of, we  
must ensure that we reveal as little as possible.  In most cases  
personal identity is not salient. When I purchase a magazine at a  
store and hand cash to the clerk, there is no need to know who I am.  
When I ask my electronic mail provider to send and receive messages,  
my provider need not know to whom I am speaking or what I am saying  
or what others are saying to me;  my provider only need know how to  
get the message there and how much I owe them in fees.  When my  
identity is revealed by the underlying mechanism of the transaction,  
I have no privacy.  I cannot here selectively reveal myself; I must  
_always_ reveal myself.

Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction  
systems.  Until now, cash has been the primary such system.  An  
anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system.  An  
anonymous system empowers individuals to reveal their identity when  
desired and only when desired; this is the essence of privacy.

Privacy in an open society also requires cryptography.  If I say  
something, I want it heard only by those for whom I intend it.  If  
the content of my speech is available to the world, I have no  
privacy.  To encrypt is to indicate the desire for privacy, and to  
encrypt with weak cryptography is to indicate not too much desire for  
privacy.  Furthermore, to reveal one's identity with assurance when  
the default is anonymity requires the cryptographic signature.

We cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless  
organizations to grant us privacy out of their beneficence.  It is to  
their advantage to speak of us, and  we should expect that they will  
speak.  To try to prevent their speech is to fight against the  
realities of information. Information does not just want to be free,  
it longs to be free.  Information expands to fill the available  
storage space.  Information is Rumor's younger, stronger cousin;  
Information is fleeter of foot, has more eyes, knows more, and  
understands less than Rumor.

We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any.  We must  
come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions  
to take place.  People have been defending their own privacy for  
centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret  
handshakes, and couriers.  The technologies of the past did not allow  
for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do.

We the Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems.  We  
are defending our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail  
forwarding systems, with digital signatures, and with electronic  

Cypherpunks write code.  We know that someone has to write software  
to defend privacy, and since we can't get privacy unless we all do,  
we're going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow  
Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all  
to use, worldwide.  We don't much care if you don't approve of the  
software we write.  We know that software can't be destroyed and that  
a widely dispersed system can't be shut down. 

Cypherpunks deplore regulations on cryptography, for encryption is  
fundamentally a private act.  The act of encryption, in fact, removes  
information from the public realm.  Even laws against cryptography  
reach only so far as a nation's border and the arm of its violence.  
Cryptography will ineluctably spread over the whole globe, and with  
it the anonymous transactions systems that it makes possible. 

For privacy to be widespread it must be part of a social contract.  
People must come and together deploy these systems for the common  
good.  Privacy only extends so far as the cooperation of one's  
fellows in society.  We the Cypherpunks seek your questions and your  
concerns and hope we may engage you so that we do not deceive  
ourselves.  We will not, however, be moved out of our course because  
some may disagree with our goals.

The Cypherpunks are actively engaged in making the networks safer for  
privacy.  Let us proceed together apace.


Eric Hughes  
<[email protected]>

9 March 1993

Copied and pasted for the purpose of preservation.

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