[fc-discuss] Financial Cryptography Update: The last (US) telegram, another FV copycat, another signature snafu

iang@iang.org iang@iang.org
Mon, 6 Feb 2006 11:28:55 +0000 (GMT)

 Financial Cryptography Update: The last (US) telegram, another FV copycat, another signature snafu 

                           February 06, 2006




Western Union sent its last telegram last week.  That's a
communications method that then survived 150 years - a salutory
reminder as to how long some networks take to die.  Perhaps in 100
years or so we'll read about the last IPv4 packet...

Samuel Morse, inventor of the Morse Code, sent the first telegram from
Washington to Baltimore on May 26, 1844, to his partner Alfred Vail to
usher in the telegram era that displaced the Pony Express.

It read, "What hath God wrought?"

No news on what other countries are doing, typically.

WSJ writes on Paypal's response to Googles "imminent" entry into the
payment systems business.

But PayPal must now contend with Google. The Mountain View, Calif.,
Web-search giant, which has terrified Silicon Valley with its ability
to quickly create new consumer products and services, is developing a
rival service called GBuy. For the last nine months, Google has
recruited online retailers to test GBuy, according to one person
briefed on the service. GBuy will feature an icon posted alongside the
paid-search ads of merchants, which Google hopes will tempt consumers
to click on the ads, says this person. GBuy will also let consumers
store their credit-card information on Google.

Google said that it has acknowledged publicly on many occasions that it
is working on payment products. The company also said it already
processes online payments for ad services, as well as fees from
consumers who use features such as Google Store and Google Earth. It
declined to comment on any pending products.

Basically, Google is going the conventional copy-Paypal route.	Install
a credit card with Google, buy your retail products and get Google to
aggregate the payments.  You'll probably have a balance and be billed
monthly.  This is the same model that First Virtual pioneered, and
muffed.  Paypal refined it slightly (removed the two obvious bugs) and
won big time.  (Peppercoin tried this, not sure how they are doing.)

Why then is it taking so long?	One wonders, but I'd speculate that for
Google the honeymoon is over, and they have to dot the i's and cross
the t's.  If they muff it they might not get a second chance.  Just
speculation, mind.

In non-digital signature news, consider the plight of the Chairman of
Qantas caught red-handed with copies of aircraft plans on entering
american airspace:

Yet when the TSA rifled through her bag last year at Los Angeles
Airport, their discovery of aircraft diagrams got them salivating. "Why
have you got all this this?" one asked. "'I'm the chairman of an
airline. I'm the chairman of Qantas," replied Margaret. "But you're a
woman," replied the TSA goon.
After a one hour interrogation and with TSA officials unimpressed by
Margaret's production of official Quantas letterhead documents, she
devised a way out that speaks volumes about the nature of this whole

She simply wrote a note to the TSA official saying that she was CEO of
Quantas and signed it.

Notice two interesting issues other than the obvious that the TSA
doesn't know what planet it is on.  Firstly the checker was trained to
pick up on inconsistencies and picked up that a woman was calling
herself Chairman.  In California, that's inconsistent and politically
incorrect.  In Australia, that's more like a statement of pride.  Oops.
 So there is an obvious limitation in teaching sophisticated checking
of cultural cues to someone who has never left California.

Secondly, a signed statement carries enough weight to have over-ridden
the entire process.  What does that say about signatures?  What does
that say about bureaucracies and social engineering?  Can you imagine
the Chairman whipping out her smart card, inserting it into the TSA's
reader and digitally signing a statement?

(Which brings to mind the infamous digital signing story from the 90s
when the US President and the Irish PM used smart cards to sign an
ecommerce agreement...	After signing the treaty, they swapped the
smart cards as if they were football jerseys...)

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