International Workshop
on Obfuscation:
Science, Technology, and Theory
April 7-8, 2017  •  New York University

Workshop on Obfuscation Workshop on Obfuscation
OBFUSCATION WORKSHOP REPORT

Identity Obfuscation Through Fully Functional Avatars

Paul Ashley, Anonyome Labs

The world we live in changes all the time. We grow, learn, experience, and evolve. We may feel strongly about something one day, and indifferent the next. We also may experience companionship, loneliness, happiness, and sorrow. We go through seasons that define our lives and while they may be intense when we’re “in the moment,” there is an “ebb and flow” to that intensity. Those feelings, beliefs, circumstances, and their intensity will invariably define us in our totality. We are the culmination of our life experiences where the only thing permanent is change.  

Yet somehow, the Internet evolved differently: everything we do, say, and record is attached to us like a digital tattoo. Our emails, texts, pictures, purchases, browsing histories, and searches are literally stored forever. We have no control or knowledge of what is done with that information. Who has seen it? Who has purchased it?  Will it come back to haunt me? Will this matter? Will it have unforeseen consequences in a future I can’t predict? Will my credibility, financial credit, or livelihood be negatively impacted?

If I was once dating, and then got married, I’m still recorded somewhere as a “single person, in search of…”  Why should a picture of my reckless college antics follow me to that job interview? Why is my mobile number—which I’ve had for years, used to identify and validate me on so many levels, and the key to my personal private information such as my home address—required to enjoy the benefits of frequenting my favorite grocery store?  

With so much of our lives and personal experiences moving to the online world, we should have the same freedom to change, adapt, mature, and evolve that we enjoy in the offline world. Being online shouldn’t mean, nor should it entitle anyone or any entity, free and unencumbered access to our personal history, forever and always. “Freedom from permanence” is a natural right and it’s one we’ve enjoyed as humans since we started walking upright. Nothing should have to last forever.

The Internet is broken. It doesn’t match how humans naturally want to interact and socialize. Moreover, it has unfairly shifted the balance of power to big companies and bigger governments. The erosion of this fundamental right has led us down a path to a very dystopian future; one where freedom of association, expression, and the ability to hold minority views is at significant risk. For a liberal democracy to function properly, it demands this right for its citizens. Yet somehow, through a combination of fear and convenience, we’ve been convinced this erosion is for our own good.  

We need a change, the same way we ourselves change. We need to take back control of our online identity, giving people the same freedoms of expression, belief, and experience that they’ve enjoyed since the advent of free societies. 

We need Sudo identities.   

Anonyome Labs was created to give people control and freedom over their personal and private information. We believe that people should be able to determine how, what, and with whom they share their personal details.  Importantly, we believe the individual should decide what is permanent and what is temporary, not a company or government. We are building tools that shift this balance of power from the public and private data brokers, advertisers, and organizations demanding your personal information, back to you, the user.

Leveraging our experience in identity management, cybersecurity, and consumer applications, our team is devoted to giving every user the power to create a proxy, or avatar, that can be used in both the online and offline world. An “avatar for anything” can be used for searching, shopping, selling, or socializing. We call our avatars “Sudo” and we are clear in our promise to you:

  • We do not know who you are—and we don’t want to know. Each Sudo you create uses a private encryption key that resides with you and your device. Access to our systems, authorized or not, will never reveal your personal information to us or anyone else.  
  • We do not use targeted advertising to make money. Unlike other services, we’re not providing you something in exchange for selling everything you do, and everything about you, to the highest bidder.
  • Complete and absolute control for every user means securing all Sudo-to-Sudo communications with end-to-end encryption, while ensuring that when you’re navigating the online world as a Sudo, you’re “hidden in the crowd.” While your Sudo has a digital footprint, history, and connections to others, no one will be able to connect that Sudo back to you, unless you want them to.
  • Our apps are designed and built with a simple goal in mind: control, privacy, and safety with convenience.  Using a Sudo should be easier and safer than not using one. We do not subscribe to the notion that being private means opting out, masking, or hiding from the world.  

We believe people want a sense of control, security, and freedom over their personal information. We believe having this right brings us more safety and security than indiscriminately leaving our personal information everywhere, with everyone, forever. Rather than relying on regulation, incomprehensible terms of service, and the benevolence of faceless companies and governments to make this determination, people should be able to decide how, what, and for how long, they share with others. We should be able to do online what we do naturally offline. We should have the right and the freedom to own and control our personal information.

The outcome is the desire to build apps that support a user’s ability to control and protect their personal information:

SudoApp:  A zero-knowledge communication tool for managing your calls, texts, and emails to others. As a buffer to those outside your intimate social circles, you can reveal as much or as little as you want, while having access to all the online sites and services (no more walled gardens, in-network constraints, or use-in-exchange-for-spam) you use on your mobile or desktop device. One tool, unlimited use, complete control.    

SudoPay:  Buy goods and services from online vendors without having to compromise your personal private information, including your physical credit card details. Stop leaving your cards with sites whose security is questionable and could be hacked, and instead use “virtual credit cards” to protect yourself and eliminate the hassles of financial fraud and identity theft.

 

Workshop Report

download PDF

Stay in Touch

We'll send occasional announcements about conference details and follow-up initiatives.

Sponsored by:

NYU Steinhardt logo

International Program and Organizing Committee:

Paul Ashley, Anonyome Labs
Benoît Baudry, INRIA, France
Finn Brunton, New York University
Saumya Debray, University of Arizona
Cynthia Dwork, Harvard University
Rachel Greenstadt, Drexel University
Seda Gürses, Princeton University
Anna Lysyanskaya, Brown University
Helen Nissenbaum, Cornell Tech & New York University
Alexander Pretschner, Technische Universität München
Reza Shokri, Cornell Tech