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I'm doing some work on computing privacy and I need to track down the source for a quote by Ronald L. Rivest which goes like:

"reversal of defaults": what was once private is now public; what once was hard to copy is now trivial to duplicate; what was once easily forgotten is now stored forever.

This is pretty useful axiom, but I need to be able to read it in context, does anyone know where this is from, book, paper or speech?? I've searched for every combination of terms I can think of in Google, Scholar and the ACM digital library, but no one who uses this quote cites it..

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I found a citation in "RFID Security and Privacy" by Dirk Henrici. He quotes it like this:

Ronal E. Rivest, Whither Information Security?, MIT Laboratory for Computer Science,, 2001.

The references section of Henrici's book can be found at the publisher's website (it's the "Back Matter" PDF). Unfortunately the quoted URL gives me a timeout.


Here's the link Dana the Sane found: hopefully unmangled by the clever software behind this site:

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Got it, although the link wouldn't work, had to use*/… – Dana the Sane Aug 5 '09 at 18:49

Have not located the actual quote yet, but here are a couple of indirect references.
The links refer PDF files.
(thanks for referring the quote)

Paper: A Middleware Architecture for Privacy Protection in Smart Environments by
Eleftherios Koutsoloukas, et al. concludes with,

Future technological reality is characterized by Ron Rivest’s “reversal of defaults”: what was once private is now public; what once was hard to copy is now trivial to duplicate; what was once easily forgotten is now stored forever. Thus, in this paper, a framework meeting the principles formulated by the privacy legislation and the consequent technical requirements is described.

Paper: Privacy by Design - Principles of Privacy-Aware Ubiquitous Systems by
Marc Langheinrich also summarizes,

What lies at the intersection of privacy protection and ubiquitous computing is easy to imagine: the frightening vision of an Orwellian nightmare-come-true, where countless “smart” devices with detailed sensing and far-reaching communication capabilities will observe every single moment of our lives, so unobtrusive and invisible that we won’t even notice!

Ron Rivest calls this the “reversal of defaults”: “What was once private is now public”, “what was once hard to copy, is now trivial to duplicate” and “what was once easily forgotten, is now stored forever.” Clearly, “something” needs to be done, as nearly all work in ubiquitous computing points out, yet little has so far been accomplished."

There appears to be a reference in the book RFID Security and Privacy, Dirk Henrici, p33.
This carries a bibliographical reference Riv01 which I could not reach. Maybe, it is a direct citation.

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Thanks, I've come across both of those I think. If necessary, I may have to resort to an indirect citation :( – Dana the Sane Aug 5 '09 at 15:59
I am curious to get the context. If you do find it, please note that here. – nik Aug 5 '09 at 16:28
See Manni's Answer – Dana the Sane Aug 5 '09 at 18:58

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