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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @04:46PM (#22195574)
    They don't seem particularly friendly to the US government these days yet still have enough ties and technology for a website. Cuba or North Korea would be out as options for obvious reasons.
  • Re:stay anonymous (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:17PM (#22195768)
    The trick is to host the server in one country, live in another and have the users in a third. The people who go after you usually have to go through at least 2 authorities to get to you.
  • Bluntly put, but not untrue.

    Basically, you're going to have to pick the least-bad option. The idea of 'data havens' where conventional meatspace law doesn't apply is sadly seeming more and more like a lost concept. It seemed possible during the early 90s, when government and the big corporate interests really hadn't caught on to 'the Internet,' but now that they have, it's going to become more and more regulated, just like every other area of human endeavor. It was fun while it lasted, I guess, and it'll make a neat story to tell our kids about, but the party's basically over.

    Where you want to go depends on the specifics of what you're doing. Political speech, particularly political speech directed at other countries, is relatively well-protected both in the U.S. and the E.U. Although I'm pretty unhappy with the current security paranoia here in the U.S., I think it's unlikely that you'll get in trouble unless you actually start advocating 'direct action' (terrorism) or have a cozy relationship with people that do. In terms of formal legislative safeguards on political speech, the U.S. has a more absolute freedom-of-speech doctrine than many European countries and Canada.* Where you will run into trouble in the U.S. (viz political speech) is when you are saying things that can be construed not as speech but as 'action' or as appeals to action. Saying things that are highly politically unpopular in the U.S. may get you put under surveillance or monitoring, but probably won't land you in a lot of legal trouble or get you locked up. Bottom line: if you're looking to deny the Holocaust or write nasty-but-true things about just about anyone, the U.S. is the place to do it.

    Where the E.U. becomes the superior venue is if you're doing things that would be a crime under certain U.S. intellectual-property laws drawn up by the megacorporations that essentially own large chunks of Congress. Hollywood is a double-edged sword: it likes freedom for political speech, but really hates freedom if it might negatively impact this quarter's bottom line. Thus while you can advocate genocide in the U.S., linking to copyrighted material may land you in prison. For that sort of thing, you're better off in Europe, probably as far north as you can get. (E.g., Sweden.) You're also probably better off in Europe if you're looking to do something that's edgy and involves sex; I'm not sure that the laws per se are a whole lot better, but overall attitudes may result in those laws not being used as aggressively to bludgeon you.

    There are more minor specialty venues that you might want to consider if what you're doing involves money changing hands. Antigua in particular seems to be a popular choice for shady financial-transaction sites (cf. 1MDC) as well as gambling. Exactly how tolerant they'll be of (U.S) copyright-violating material, as a result of the recent trade decisions, remains to be seen. I wouldn't hold your breath for a Bittorrent Free Zone, though.

    I admit to not knowing a whole lot about privacy laws in Asian countries but I get the impression that they're more restrictive than the U.S. in many cases. One datapoint: 2chan, the popular Japanese imageboard, is run out of the U.S. to shield it from Japanese authorities and law.

    Really, I don't think there's any place you can go where you'll get 'total freedom,' except maybe Freenet (and it's really slow and impractical to use). You need to think hard about what type of content is going to be the most problematic, and then choose a hosting location that's going to be least hostile to it.

    * To wit: Many European countries prohibit certain types of political speech under the guise of 'hate speech' laws and anti-Nazism/fascism policies. Although Canada isn't nearly as bad, their Bill of Rights-equivalent document, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, "guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society," a cave
  • Re:Tor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by troll ( 593289 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:29PM (#22195864) Journal
    You're pretty much stuck with self signed certs though, which means that first time you confirm it could be a MITM, and unless you store the cert permanently the next time you hit the site without having it around is another chance to get MITMed.

    A better idea would be to just keysign all your posts, but even then, do you want undeniable association to your posts? If its worth using tor for, maybe you're better off letting your messages stand on their own merit instead of needing the trustworthiness of your 'anonymous' name.
  • by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:40PM (#22195922) Homepage
    You could host with someone who says they won't give out your info but you still have to deal with their server provider. If the server provider get a signed court order to give up a server most companies will be obligated to obey it.

    I run a small web host in Canada that hosts Cannabis related sites. I had to ask my server provider first if they allow that kind of traffic and their said they are ok with it and will only give out info with a signed court order. Same goes for me. Unless you have a signed court order from a "Canadian" court/judge I won't give out a customer info. Once there is a court order I'm obligated to flow it since I do run a business and don't need the legal hassle. You could be the FBI/Secret Service, if you are not a Canadian authority with a legally signed court order you can take a hike.

    You'll find that most businesses will do this no matter where they are unless they have deeeep pockets to pay for your legal problems.
  • Anonymous Webhosting (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:44PM (#22195946)
    Hi there.

    Anonymous web hosting is the answer. If you cannot be linked to the site, then you're save.

    (1) Get a anonymous credit card, for example from [] - it's not cheap, but probably worth it. Don't pay it with your real credit card.

    (2) Get a webhoster in some country that doesn't have too good political contacts with your nemesis, and that does allow paying by credit card (you want to use your fresh, anonymous one!). For example, [] is known to ignore abusive complaints against their hosted services in the anonymisation subculture.
  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phlegethon_River ( 1136619 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @05:51PM (#22195984)

    From their Privacy Policy:

    Please delete your user data (No contact info means that they can't be forced to give something which isn't there. Drawback: forget your password, you're screwed)
    We keep minimal logs
    We do not share data with anyone
    We will defend your data
    We will not monitor your communications
    Your data is encrypted

    (No, I am not affiliated with them, just found out about them this week myself)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @06:23PM (#22196226)
    Freenet might be slow and impractical now, but internet speeds will be vastly improving without you average website using much more resources.

    The main problems with freenet are:
    1. Websites are static, there is no change once they are uploaded although you can check for newer ones, forums and such cannot exist (although there is a kind of usenet system which is more of a dodgy hack that a proper system)
    2. Slow, messages can take days to reach the boards
    3. Missing data, since data is retained only by the amount it is accessed things can get lost

    Point 1 is something that the Freenet team are working on, it is quite a pain. There really needs to be a way to have almost direct access to a server but routing it anonymously. Travel time needs to be much less than it is now.

    Point 2, As I said above the internet is getting faster, but websites size hasn't increased at the same rate. In Japan the most popular file sharing program is Winny, a P2P Darknet based on the similar ideas. Filesharing uses a lot of bandwidth and Darknets are slow, but thanks to the insanely fast internet they get over there its mainstream. Freenet itself will hopefully also improve the network architecture.

    Point 3, Currently a Freenet cache is 1gb by default, In japan the darknets (not specifically whinny since the author got arrested and now there are others) have more like 40gb. Hard drives are getting bigger (although so is the datashared).

    Freenet probably isn't the solution, but perhapse something that is designed in a more realistic way rather than for lofty ideas of 100% bullet proof anonymity could work. For instance it might be necessary to allow the network to know a larger number of nodes and to form optimum routing (ie you connect to nodes that are closer, or have a better route to the content you are after). This makes it possible to find more people who are running nodes but not what they are hosting. Freenet was designed to help bypass China censorship type scenarios, not for anonymous Filesharing or message boards. There needs to be some kind of seeder mode to ensure data is never lost.
  • Re:Unfortunately... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by darthflo ( 1095225 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @06:52PM (#22196384)
    Germany's privacy is being very actively dismantled. Protests about the changes are taking place, but it probably isn't where you'd want your site to be hosted right now. Housing space and bandwidth, OTOH, are damn cheap over there, way cheaper than most anywhere else, including the U.S.
  • Re:here's what I do (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @06:58PM (#22196410)
    Y'know, while obviously modded funny, that's a pretty awesome idea. Some sort of micro-hardware powered from battery with a WiFi connection. You could seed them in various places and manage them remotely.
  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Incadenza ( 560402 ) on Saturday January 26, 2008 @07:14PM (#22196496)
    Of course I should have linked to their Motives and Ambitions [] page as well:

    XS4ALL has its roots in a close-knit international internet community which played a large part in the creation of the internet. We therefore cherish and seek to protect the original values of the internet as a worldwide computer network that allows the free and uncensored exchange of data, information and ideas for everyone. XS4ALL therefore believes it has a special responsibility for the development of the internet.

    The internet and society
    The internet has given rise to a new digital society which calls for a new set of rules. XS4ALL promotes civil rights in this digital society. We are actively opposing the mandatory retention of all our customers' internet traffic data. We seek to initiate debates on freedom of speech and privacy on the internet.

    Freedom of speech
    XS4ALL believes that freedom of speech is an immense asset. Every voice must be able to be heard. It is a fundamental tenet of our democracy. XS4ALL considers that internet providers should not concern themselves with the views of their customers. For XS4ALL, it is the laws of the Netherlands that determine what customers can and cannot publish. We do not judge the content ourselves. Such a judgment should be made by an independent court and not by private companies. If it turns out that customers' content hosted by XS4ALL contravenes Dutch law, it intervenes rapidly and appropriately.
    Also be sure to checkt their page on Freedom of Speech [].

    The original objective of internet for everyone has now been largely achieved, but the ideal of the free exchange of information, unimpeded by censorship, has not been realised 100%. The internet is increasingly being censored by governments.

    That is done by blocking websites or, if they are hosted outside their sphere of influence, by forbidding certain search terms. The (current) Dutch government would not venture to conduct such forms of censorship, but in a certain sense censorship does take place even in the Netherlands.

    There are known examples of internet service providers that have voluntarily blocked access to websites even though their content is neither prohibited nor unlawful. For some internet service providers, the fact that a website offends good taste is sufficient to shut it down. But whose good taste, and where do you draw the line?

    XS4ALL is very concerned about such forms of self-regulation and believes that freedom of speech should have the protection it deserves under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2008 @08:33PM (#22197006)
    ... and unless you intend to "insult Islam".

    Hint: You can host a video of yourself peeing on the Swedish flag, but if you want to host a video showing yourself peeing on the symbol for Allah or the Quran, you are likely to struggle. It is interesting because it's true.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Monday January 28, 2008 @01:29AM (#22205118) Homepage Journal
    The legal theories underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the U.S. Constitution are pretty dramatically different.

    I included a direct quote from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but here it is again, including the preamble:

    Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:

    1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

    The U.S. Constitution contains no such qualification, and is quite clearly designed to be the absolute law of the land at any particular time. (Cf. Article VI) The sole remedy in the Constitution for conflicts between society and the rights defined therein is via the amendment process; the Constitution does not give the Legislature any leeway to limit Constitutional freedoms, "reasonable" or not.

    Now, of course that's theory -- in practice things do not work out to be quite that absolute; the Supreme Court has interpreted its own 'interpretative' powers broadly enough to abrogate certain speech rights, particularly in edge cases where speech is inextricably linked to action, or by defining certain speech as outside the bounds protected by the First Amendment. However, such cases have always been controversial, and more than a few jurists* have held the absolutist line despite what must have been strong social and political pressure to ban unpopular speech. They were able to do so because the Constitution quite clearly does not make room for exceptions -- were the Constitution to contain an obvious invitation for exceptions as the Charter does, I doubt they would have been able to maintain their opposition to censorship of unpopular or repugnant ideas.

    If you need a practical demonstration of what I perceive to be the dangers of the Canadian approach, the "reasonable limits" clause is the linchpin of R. v. Keegstra [], which legitimized 'hate speech' restrictions in Canada. The more recent example of Ezra Levant vs the CIC (carried out in 'human rights' tribunals instead of open court, which is an issue by itself) seem like the inevitable result.

    To sum it up quite bluntly: the First Amendment and the U.S. Constitution as a whole, has managed to hold back would-be book-banners for 217 years, in an environment that is and historically has been more hostile and conservative than Canada. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has existed (in its current form, anyway) for only 26 years, and it already has allowed more regulation of speech, in an environment that is widely considered to be far more socially liberal and open to new ideas than the U.S. That's not a particularly good track record.

    Lest you or anyone else thing I'm mindlessly Canada-bashing, I'm not; there are lots of things that I think are done drastically better in Canada versus the U.S. (loser-pays-expenses in civil suits, for example). And on a more general level, I wasn't even arguing which system is necessarily better in any objective sense, outside of the OP's original question, which sought maximum freedom (for a web server, no less) as its only goal.

    * Probably the most noted example would be Justices Brennan, Black, and Douglas' support of unconditional free-speech rights and rejection of the common-law 'obscenity' doctrine as unsupportable under the Constitution; Douglas somewhat famously concluding in Memoirs v. Massachusetts that "No interest of society justifies overriding the guarantees of free speech and press and establishing a regime of censorship." (Seemingly the exact opposite of the Charter's philosophy.) Unfortunately the Warren court -- which had been packed by social conservatives -- ignored this argument in Miller, but it was a 5-4 split and has been slowly chipped away at since. While

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