|E-COMMERCE NETWORK FOR BLACK MARKET GOODS AND SERVICES
The eCommerce Network for Black Market Goods and Services is an anonymous network that enables people to engage in the exchange of illicit or embarrassing goods and services. All transactions require the use of a total of 3 nodes. The network consists of a single mediator node and n number of client nodes. Client nodes can act as either a customer node or a vendor node in any exchange.
Users request to be added to the network by contacting the mediator node via email with a list of things they have for offer/sale and/or a list of items they would like to obtain/purchase. Each client node only knows how to contact the mediator node. The mediator node doesn't know the physical identity of client nodes. The mediator node simply knows what each node has requested or offered and an email address for that node. The mediator node is responsible for directing messages back and forth between nodes that wish to engage in exchange. The network does not govern or mediate the actual physical exchange of goods that are offered or requested. Such details are left to the nodes engaging in the transaction.
*There is a single exception to this: client nodes may both request that the central node furnish their respective contact emails to the other. In such a case, the administrator does so and further communication and transactions between those client nodes are removed from the network altogether.
Communications take place pseudonymously with the central node. The identities and the number of other nodes in the network are unknown to the client nodes.
Predictions and Discussion
What It Was Designed To Do
The network was designed to enable its users to anonymously engage in the trade of goods and services that are embarrassing or illegal. Many people are afraid to attempt to buy, sell, or exchange a variety of things since they fear prosecution or are worried that people they know will find out or both. So my network was intended to allow people to try to fulfill their desires without fear.
Predictions About Operation
Before starting the network, I predicted that the network would be at least minimally successful in that I'd be able to route a few requests to a few offers and that, of those, at least one successful transaction would take place. I also believed that I would be able to do this without worrying about risk of prosecution. Regarding scale and the obvious network vulnerability presented by having a single node responsible for manually reading and routing every message, I predicted that in the course of a single week of operation, I would be able to handle all the traffic in a timely fashion. This prediction was correct. Of course, scale would be a very big problem if a certain number of users ever signed on and/or I (another central node administrator) became too busy to deal with the responsibilities of routing even a few transactions.
Predictions vs. Reality
Regarding the network's performance in a week's time, it was a failure. In the course of the week, I received a few request/offers (requests for a kidney, ecstasy, and marijuana and offers of marijuana, porn, movies, music and software). A couple of these requested/offered illegal goods also struck me as suspect in some way. I found that I was afraid to properly route or otherwise respond to these and the remaining illegal ones, since my identity as central administrator was easily discovered by anyone with even a little bit of determination. The remaining legal offers/requests I received didn't have corresponding buyers or vendors. So no transactions ever took place.
What I Learned in this Experiment
I learned that, for such a network to be successful, there needs to be a more robust level of anonymity and security built into the network for both users and administrator (assuming such a role would even exist in a re-designed version). It's difficult to openly promote such a network since such promotion would almost certainly attract the attention of those who would like to monitor and perhaps prosecute its users. For the purposes of getting some kind of results within a week's time, I posted instructions about the list and how to use it to a mailist list under a pseudonym. Promotion would likely need to take place via word-of-mouth (in much the same way that other clandestine networks function). User trust and willingness to engage in the network would likely come from a friend or other trusted source that has vetted the network and reported success in buying and selling particular kinds of items. The network's success would also depend on the routing process being automated, since manual routing would be too time-consuming for any but the smallest number of users, perhaps 25 total waiting for a matching response to an outstanding request or offer.
What I Would Do Differently
In a second implementation, I would focus on improving three general areas:
User and Administrator Security:
|© 2008 David Yates|