Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Methods To Prevent Illegal Information Sharing By ISPs And Service Providers

Pritesh N Munjal

In an interesting article it has been reported that Chris Soghoian, an Indiana University PhD candidate and security and privacy researcher has advised companies to say no to government requests for data as it is good for business. He has also pointed that saying yes can be really bad for business. It is bad on many counts ranging from bad reputation to defending law suits. Further, such actions are also agitated by the civil liberty activists.

Most of the information requests by governmental authorities are either not supported by law or they are illegal. Very few of them are genuine and law abiding. Illegal information and data requests violate the civil liberties of the end users who have utmost faith in service providers. In fact the growing concerns of human rights in cyberspace have forced the service providers to change their attitude towards privacy rights and information sharing.

Recently Google released the raw estimates of governmental requests regarding disclosure of information stored by it. No surprise India occupies third position for “removal request” and fourth spot for “data requests”. With the growing commitment towards e-surveillance in India, India may get the top position very soon.

However, not everything can be left at the level of service providers. The end users must take precautionary as well as private defense measures. One way is to simply not store the data as in the absence of any information nothing is there to be searched and acquired.

For instance, the world renowned website Indymedia is believed to be keeping no records of its users and logs. This way they can successfully protect the civil liberties of its users on the one hand and frustrate illegal and unreasonable search and seizure warrants on the other.

Another method is that companies that store data for users can encrypt it, providing the key only to the user so that the company is unable to provide that data to law enforcement.

Finally, whistleblowers can use Wikileaks Model to spread words against corruption and other illegalities in governmental departments. They can also use the right to information act 2005 of India and make RTI application to ascertain the truth. The list is just illustrative and you can use your imagination to expand and use it for public good.