Eric Hughes : A Cypherpunk's Manifesto

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 to. 

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 money. 

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

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

9 March 1993