Joachim Breitner

The trustworthy stranger

Published 2007-08-23 in sections English, Digital World.

Some friends and I are considering to set up something similar to Steve’s One issue that came up was: “Who get’s to be the main admin and how can we trust him?” At first I found this an odd issue − I’ve never heard anyone considering this when using one of those anonymous virtual server hosting offers.

After all, when you have something valuable to store somewhere, e.g. your family store of gold coins, you’d rather ask your good friends instead of some random stranger. But it seems to be different for information: Imagine you have some valuable piece of information (e.g. your dirty secret from ten years ago) and you had to share it with someone − suddenly the completely anonymous stranger seems to be a better choice than the persons that know you...

I think this effect is also the reason why people are so little troubled by known and unknown facts such as

  • E-mail-communication is open to any one having control over a server “inbetween” you and your recepient.
  • Messages sent over AIM are (or were, it seems), according to the Terms of Services, legally owned by AOL.
  • Google uses the contents of your gmail e-mails to do stuff.

This is just a small part of the list of situations where people give information to some “unknown stranger” that they would probably not give their friends.

Is this way of thought valid? If not, what are good arguments to convince people to be more careful? And under what circumstances would you trust your friend to manage the host machine for your Xen server instance?


Usually I can check the size of the company to see how trustworthy it is. But how can I check how much I can trust a friend? Even if I can trust him, maybe he overestimates his skills and destroys the server by accident?

If you need another person to share the server with, you can contact me :D
#1 David T. am 2007-08-24
<strong>Trackback:</strong> <a href="">Hvem kan man stole på?</a><br />Joachim Breitner skriver i The trustworthy stranger om hvorvidt det er bedst at ens venner eller fuldstændige fremmede har administrator-adgang til ens data og Martin von Haller fortæller om en advokat han overhørte på en togtur mellem Købehnavn o...
#2 (Homepage) am 2007-08-24
Sorry for the trackback in danish. Here is a summary in english.

Danish lawyer Martin von Haller, who has strong connections to the open

source world and the IT world in general, blogs about a train trip where

he overheard another lawyers phone conversations concerning business

relations and a wedding he was going to. One of the phrases this phone

talking lawyer uses is "don't tell this to anybody" while ten strangers

is hearing his conversations.

Basically you're both doing the same observations. People are willing to

share some informations to total strangers but not with closer known

people. The value of information is purly subjectiv. Google and the next

generation emerging technologies could change this. As information

becomes more searchable we could have a marked for more private

information, but some people stil finds it anoying if you just do a

google search on them before a meeting. It's is going to be interesting

to see how available private information will be and when the general

public will becoam aware of these changes.
#3 Peter Makholm (Homepage) am 2007-08-26

Have something to say? You can post a comment by sending an e-Mail to me at <>, and I will include it here.