Definition “cypherpunk“: A person who uses encryption when accessing a computer network to ensure privacy, especially from government authorities. “We have the old school cypherpunks and the hacking community on both sides of the law.”
This was practically the beginning for Bitcoin, many years ago, Bitcoin did not come out of nowhere in 2008 … You can read more in the History of Bitcoin.
by Eric Hughes
Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is no secret. A private matter is something you don’t want everyone to know, but a secret matter is something you don’t want anyone to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal yourself to the world.
If two parties have some kind of deal, each has a memory of their interaction. Each party can talk about their own memory of this; How could anyone prevent it? Laws could be passed against it, but freedom of expression, 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 add insights about individuals and other parties. The power of electronic communications has enabled such group discourse, and it will not go away simply because we might want to.
Since we want privacy, we must ensure that each party to a transaction is aware only of what is directly necessary for that transaction. Since any information can be discussed, we must ensure that we disclose as little as possible. In most cases, personal identity is not relevant. When I buy a magazine in a store and give cash to the clerk, there is no need to know who I am. When I ask my email provider to send and receive messages, my provider doesn’t need to know who I’m talking to or what I’m saying or what others are saying to me; my supplier just needs to know how to get the message across and how much I owe him in fees. When my identity is revealed by the underlying mechanism of the transaction, I have no privacy. I cannot reveal myself here selectively; I must always reveal myself.
Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems. Until now, cash has been the main system of its kind. An anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system. An anonymous system allows people to reveal their identity whenever they want and only when they want to; this is the essence of privacy.
Privacy in an open society also requires cryptography. If I say something, I want only those to whom I propose to hear it. If the content of my speech is available to the world, I have no privacy. Encrypting is indicating the desire for privacy, and encrypting with weak cryptography is indicating that too much privacy is not desired. Also, revealing one’s identity with confidence when anonymity is the default requires the cryptographic signature.
We cannot expect governments, corporations or other large faceless organizations to grant us privacy for their charity. It is in their interest to talk about us, and we should expect them to talk. Trying to prevent his speech is fighting against the reality of the information. Information doesn’t just want to be free, it yearns to be free. The information expands to fill the available storage space. Information is Rumor’s youngest and strongest cousin; Information is faster, 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 that allow anonymous transactions to take place. People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and messengers. Technologies of the past did not allow great privacy, but electronic technologies did.
We Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems. We defend our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail forwarding systems, with digital signatures and with electronic money.
Cypherpunks writes code. We know that someone has to write privacy advocate software, and since we can’t get privacy unless we all do, we are going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow Cypherpunks can practice and play with it. Our code is free for everyone, worldwide. We don’t care much if you don’t approve of the software we write. We know that software cannot be destroyed and that a very dispersed system cannot be shut down.
Cypherpunks deplores the regulations on cryptography, as encryption is fundamentally a private act. The act of encryption, in effect, removes information from the public domain. Even anti-crypto laws only go as far as a nation’s border and the arm of its violence. Cryptography will inescapably spread throughout the world, and with it the anonymous transaction systems that it makes possible.
For privacy to be pervasive, it must be part of a social contract. People must come together and deploy these systems for the common good. Privacy only extends to the cooperation of peers in society. We Cypherpunks seek your questions and concerns and look forward to involving you so that we are not fooled. However, we will not get off course because some may disagree with our goals.
Cypherpunks are actively involved in making networks more secure for privacy. Let’s proceed together at a good pace.
Eric Hughes <email@example.com>
March 9, 1993