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Web Hosting For Privacy Activists? 285

BritishColumbian writes "I'm thinking about setting up a Web site driven by user submissions. I was wondering which locations have the most liberal (i.e., libertarian) privacy laws. There are some great hosts in the US, however there have been so many FBI requests for user data that I don't want a server hosted under US jurisdiction. Does anyone have any thoughts/suggestions as to a suitable jurisdiction? It doesn't look like Sealand's HavenCo is guaranteed to be privacy-friendly any more."
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Web Hosting For Privacy Activists?

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  • Nowhere (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bobbonomo ( 997543 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:01PM (#22195658) Homepage
    Well basically nowhere!

    Let's say you find a hosting company in a country that is very libertarian and will not comply with any request for info.

    The routers to that place can be sniffed here in North America (or anywhere along the route) and voila the trick is done. Not as easy as getting logs but...

    If your subjects are that hot, then an easy break-in into the premises of that hosting company. (or a bribe). Remember Watergate?
  • stay anonymous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:02PM (#22195664)
    hosting in another country won't save you. if they find out who you are the government will just arrest you anyway, they don't even need a real reason these days.
  • how does this work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KevMar ( 471257 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:10PM (#22195728) Homepage Journal
    If your server is hosted in a safe area but you (the owner/responcible operator) reside in the US. Can the FBI contact or require you to provide that info?

    Having it hosted in a safe are only protects the hosting company. The FBI will not get anything from them, the next step is for them to contact you (if they can figure out who you are).

    Atleast that way, you know when the FBI is trying to get info about you or your users.
  • Re:Why!? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:10PM (#22195730)
    Why do you hate our freedoms?

    Because those freedoms have turned into nothing more than a public illusion of freedom.

    The freedom to do only what the government and big business wants is not freedom.

    If the founding fathers were around today, they would find more in common here with China than with the nation that they set up.
  • Re:Tor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by robo_mojo ( 997193 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:15PM (#22195760)
    Have you ever heard of SSL?

    Do you always click on "OK" when a bad certificate warning comes up on your browser?
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:17PM (#22195764) Homepage Journal
    Frankly I doubt that you will find anyplace more liberal than the US.
    A lot of countries in the EU will bust you for anything that they consider "hate speech" not that I wouldn't mind never having to see it myself it is still political speech. Considering Europe's history I can understand why they are more than a little sensitive over hate speech. Canada also has hate speech laws last time I checked. I am not sure about all the countries in Latin America but most get a little bent over criticism of their governments and or the Catholic Church.
    The middle east? Well just don't make fun of Islam and you will be just fine. Africa? Well that probably depends on the nation. Not a great history of Human rights in most of those Nations.
    Asia? Well China is a big no. Japan, and Taiwan I have no idea. Austriala and New Zealand maybe a as liberal as the US but I think they are closer to most EU nations according the Wikipedia they are.
    Switzerland maybe?

    The US does tend to be more strict on sexual content but is probably still one of the most free when it comes to Political speech. Of course an anti-war protester being asked to go to a free speech zone or get a permit really doesn't care about an neo-nazi in France being put into jail for wearing a patch.
  • Re:Nowhere (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:22PM (#22195800)
    I don't understand this usage of the word "libertarian." In a truly libertarian system, the webhost would simply sell your personal info to the highest bidder. If everybody is free to do whatever they want, what right do you have to prevent them?
  • IANAL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mawginty ( 882393 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:25PM (#22195828)

    And you might consider consulting one (if you have the money). You might also consider exactly what sorts of liability you'll be exposed to and search for jurisdictions with the most lax regulations in that area. You say that your site is going to be driven by user submissions . . . are you worried about copyright? You say you're worried about the FBI requesting user data, is there any particular reason you think the FBI will ask for your user data (that is, will you be requesting submissions on political/revolutionary/Islam topic areas? I suppose one could even piece together a user submission website dedicated to the discussion of criminal activity and how one might go about practicing crime . . . clearly an exposed place to be).

    Also remember it isn't only the FBI that can compel disclosure of user identities. The Think Secret/Apple, Inc. lawsuit proved that. A foreign jurisdiction might make it really hard for the government to get at user data, but make it really easy for private parties to do so in a lawsuit. Also consider, however, that if your servers are in a foreign jurisdiction then U.S. constitutional guarantees may not apply (you might say that they don't apply here anymore, but I would submit that they protect you at least a little bit). That could mean that if the government wants your user data, and the servers are outside the U.S., they could tap/hack/physically break in and get the data they want w/o even the pretense of judicial sanction, and w/o even the possibility of court action for you.

    My point here is that jurisdictions treat privacy differently across subject areas and differently depending on who's asking or taking the data. Find the subject area that your website most squarely fits under, and then find a jurisdiction with the most protective privacy laws, on the whole and against everyone you're scared of, for that subject.

  • by xstonedogx ( 814876 ) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:25PM (#22195836)
    Nazi Germany 1933-1945. Thanks for playing!
  • Re:Nowhere (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot...kadin@@@xoxy...net> on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:28PM (#22195856) Homepage Journal

    I don't understand this usage of the word "libertarian." In a truly libertarian system, the webhost would simply sell your personal info to the highest bidder. If everybody is free to do whatever they want, what right do you have to prevent them?
    Well, they would certainly be free to do that, but if their business was predicated on a guarantee of security, it wouldn't be a very rational thing to do. They'd protect you just as long as it was profitable to do so; until the revenue hit from the bad PR of selling you out was less than they'd be paid to sell you out.

    This is essentially how most commercial webhosts in the U.S. operate as it is. They'll protect you if you're just irritating some guy whose only weapon is to write angry letters, but the second you tick off someone with a lot of lawyers and cash to burn, you're up the creek without a paddle.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:33PM (#22195880)
    Frankly I doubt that you will find anyplace more liberal than the US

    Bwahah ahah ahahahaha hahahahah ahahaha
    Bwah ahahaha hahaha haha hahaha
    Bwa hahahaha hahah ahaha
    Bwah ahah ahahah
    Bwah ahaha

    Now that was a good one. Seriously.
  • Singapore?! The you-must-register-to-buy-chewing-gum country? I don't think so.
  • Re:Nowhere (Score:2, Insightful)

    by poopdeville ( 841677 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:38PM (#22195912)
    Well, they would certainly be free to do that, but if their business was predicated on a guarantee of security, it wouldn't be a very rational thing to do. They'd protect you just as long as it was profitable to do so; until the revenue hit from the bad PR of selling you out was less than they'd be paid to sell you out.

    But who says their business would be predicated on a guarantee of security? Extreme privacy is a niche market. Most people just want a fast connection. You are unlikely to find an ISP anywhere that promises extreme privacy unless it is mandated by law. Sweden is a good choice. They have "strong" as opposed to "Libertarian" privacy laws.
  • Why worry? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:50PM (#22195978) Homepage Journal
    If you arent hiding anything, you have nothing to worry about.

    Of course I'm joking, but good luck finding a place 100% secure, anywhere in the world.
  • Russia (Score:3, Insightful)

    by poptones ( 653660 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @06:32PM (#22196256) Journal
    Unless you might have some users slinging about antiestablishment speech about Putin's regime, Russia is probably the safest. Yeah they have some weird laws regarding pornography so that might not fly too well either, but for the most part Russia seems to be the most lax on stuff like this - especially if you find a hosting company that is well connected. Just about anything is possible if you know the right people to bribe...
  • by this great guy ( 922511 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @06:59PM (#22196414)

    If I were you, I would first recognize that no matter how careful you are, there will always be a chance of someone (the govt, your web host) with the authority to take down the physical server hosting your website. So I would physically host the site in at least 3 different countries. Use DNS to spread the load on the different locations (all are active at any point in time). If one of them get taken down, update the DNS accordingly to redirect traffic to the other locations, and start setting up one more server in another country (have the technical procedure clearly described and easy to follow so multiple people you trust can follow it). Of course you need to have the user content posted to any location automatically replicated to the others. (Notice how this sounds much like NNTP).

    If someone succeeds into getting administrative access to your DNS records, register a new domain name and get the word out to communicate it (IRC channel where you guys usually hang out, a post to some other forum, etc). Or just communicate the IP addresses prominently.

    Good luck to someone trying to take down something hosted as described above ;-) Choose the right 3 countries and, because of red tape, no governments will ever be able to successfully cooperate to take down the 3 physical servers at the same time.

  • by nacturation ( 646836 ) <nacturation @ g m ail.com> on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:53PM (#22196738) Journal

    The US is good on free speech but it is not good on privacy which is the point of this article. As far as privacy is concerned, Privacy International ranks [wikipedia.org] both Germany and Canada very highly. I'd recommend Canada to get around Germany's prohibited speech laws.
    And considering that this article was submitted by "BritishColumbian" I'm amazed he/she didn't consider their own country, which has some very good privacy protection.
  • by petard ( 117521 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @08:29PM (#22196982) Homepage

    And considering that this article was submitted by "BritishColumbian" I'm amazed he/she didn't consider their own country, which has some very good privacy protection.

    Don't you see the benefit in hosting somewhere that's not under the jurisdiction of your government, even if you think their laws are relatively good? It seems an activist might.
  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @01:34AM (#22198310) Journal
    The right country to host in depends a lot on who you're most likely to annoy. If you're really likely to seriously annoy people, host your website in two countries (plus keep a backup), so that if one website gets shut down you've got your mirror site. It's not a bad idea to keep your DNS server in a different country than your hosting, or at least follow the standard DNS advice about keeping your nameservers on different subnets, which in your case means separate countries.

    If you're doing something political, your home country is the most likely to get annoyed at you, and in general if there's a government that's annoyed at your website you'd rather not have it be your home jurisdiction, since you don't want to get arrested or have your bank account seized. If you host in another country, it's harder to defend your website, but that government will have a harder time bothering you personally, and you'll have a backup copy handy.

    If you're going to annoy somebody in Country X, hosting in Country Y might be a good idea. Sometimes it's convenient to host in a country that doesn't primarily speak Country X's language. (Everybody speaks some English, but they may be better about having an automated website-setup site in English than actually responding to legal complaints in English. It'll be harder for you to argue with them, but less necessary.)
    If you're likely to libel somebody, don't host in Britain or Australia; libel laws there are plaintiff-friendly. If you're going to annoy Scientologists, Germany's not very friendly to them. If you're going to annoy US Intellectual Property Owners, you might try China or Russia, but you might end up paying more there. The Caribbean's often friendly, but bandwidth there tends to be overpriced.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2008 @08:06AM (#22199448)
    I just did this for kicks, and because I knew you didn't.

    Censorship Topic Articles [slashdot.org]

    The vast majority of stories about 'censorship' in the US have nothing to do with the US government, rather it's companies like YouTube/MySpace/Google, etc, self censoring, for profit motivated reasons. This sometimes isn't a good thing, but frankly I think content providers have every right to decide what to and what not to publish.

    Here's what I found about the US government and censorship:

    • Some dude in south carolina won a lawsuit brought on him by a company because he wrote something bad about them.. So yeah, he won. -1 for censorship in the US.
    • Wikileaks published a manual from Guantanamo. End of story. +0 I suppose.
    • "In a widely watched free-speech case, a New Jersey judge has upheld a blogger's right to criticize county officials anonymously." -1, again.
    • Apple Lawyering Up On "Fake Steve Jobs" - some legal threats. Nothing happened. +0
    • ' Court Says You Can Copyright a Cease-And-Desist Letter' this is ridiculous, but as some comments point out it's not a huge deal. +1 for censorship.
    Now I know this isn't a proper survey of censorship in the US today, but hey, you asked for it. The rest of the US stories have to do with private companies choosing to filter content -- ie no porn on airplane internet connections, myspace parent controls, and a few on isp p2p controversies. It actually appears that we are winning the fight on censorship in the US. So what governments did show up in this short search? Australia - several stories. It seems shit is really going down the tubes down under:
    • "The Australian government is mandating the creation of 'clean' internet feeds."
    • "From January 20, 2008 new content laws introduced by the Federal Government will force sites to verify the age of users before accessing..."
    Man, apparently the us is NOT the most uptight country in the world regarding sex. There are also stories about Thailand, Russia and of course China. Now to your comments.

    The US opposes freedom of speech in the US you can get sued if someone dosent like what you post.

    Yeah. We have the right to bring a lot of ridiculous lawsuits -- sometimes they even get to court. The ones above, however, didn't succeed. I'm fairly sure many other countries have libel laws. I've heard Australia's are much more Draconian.

    Really, we're not doing terribly over here. We allow more or less ANY political group to exist, even if they wear swastikas. I've talked about this issue to some Europeans. My thought was that such an idiotic movement couldn't get enough support to be relevant anyway. The KKK and neo-nazi groups just serve as fodder for comedians and writers here. My European counterparts have indicated that they believe a far right neo-nazi movement could indeed carry some weight if allowed to openly exist in Western Europe. That's just fascinating to me, as I'm told daily on /. and other blogs that Europe is light years ahead of us in these sorts of things.

    Now don't get me wrong, all is not perfect in the US -- we definitely have some huge issues with our government spying on us (but note this is not at all unique internationally -- take a look at the UK closely), but I reject the idea that the US is completely backwards when it comes to censorship and civil rights as compared to other Western nations. It's a completely ridiculous assertion, and as usual, isn't backed by facts. The 'omg lol the us is so unfree' banter just makes you look like a 13 year old idiot.

  • by novakyu ( 636495 ) <novakyu@novakyu.net> on Sunday January 27, 2008 @09:39AM (#22199726) Homepage

    Avoid NFS unless you want blood on your hands. They provide services to Redwatch - a site where the identities/names/addresses/personal information of libertarian protesters are posted. They're then freely available for use by right wing vigilantes to go and attack them (and it has happened):
    As a recent customer of NFS, I would have been disappointed if they denied services to Redwatch.

    I don't know much about U.K. politics, and I probably do not particularly care for their political views. But in any case, on their website, they state that "Redwatch does not encourage violence against political opponents - we never have done, we never will do" [redwatch.net], for what it's worth (probably not much, but IMHO, enough for a web host).

    And the evidence you stated is very little: all you have are a handful of anecdotal evidences, with what amounts to as evidence being correlation in time (here's the old chestnut: correlation != causation), and a few alleged anti-left shouts (which may well have had other reasons than Redwatch). If Redwatch is promoting a vigilante justice, then what you are suggesting is yet another form of vigilante justice. Do two wrongs make a right?

    I fundamentally believe that standing for "free speech" means allowing everyone to say what they want to say as long as it is not false—one should be able to yell "fire" in a crowded theater, if there really is a fire that's threatening to burn the building down. It doesn't matter if you disagree with the view. It doesn't matter if you think that one particular speech is harmful. If it is truly harmful for the society, that's why we have laws and courts. Such matters are for due process to decide, and it's not the web host's fucking job to decide which types of speech they would allow and which they would not, as long as it is not against the law of the land.

    I will repeat one more time: As a new customer to NFS, I would have been very disappointed at NFS, if they did not allow these, perhaps "hate speech" websites on their servers.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford