buying illegal drugs on the internet

I suppose that headline is also found in quite a bit of spam. Oh well. I read with interest this story in Forbes about how the Silk Road site is facilitating about $2 million a month in illegal drug sales over the internet, using technologies such as Bitcoin for payment (which apparently is untraceable) and Tor to serve the site (which apparently is also untraceable). As an aside, the only reason I say “apparently” is because it always seems that no matter how airtight any electronic security measure seems to be, there always eventually seems to be someone who comes along who is sufficiently clever and/or dedicated to bypass it.

My initial thought on this story was that it was rather a shame that such useful technology would be put to such notorious uses, and wondered how long it would be until someone called for government control or prohibition of such technologies. Yes, yes, I know, thisĀ hearkensĀ back the now somewhat dated debate regarding controls over crypto and the release of the rather poorly received Clipper chip. And yet, I still encounter those who feel that this is the proper approach to such technologies, and the only way that criminals who use such technologies can be pursued and apprehended with any reasonable measure of efficacy.

Perhaps needless to say, but I don’t quite agree with such an approach, largely for the same, very practical reasons that Clipper did not succeed (which I’ll leave to you and Google to find). That being said, I’m fully expecting the dialogue around this story to broach this debate once again.