In our post 9/11 world, personal privacy has become a rare commodity. Legal attacks against ISPs are coming from many quarters, including governments and the music and movie industry. The changing landscape of this brave new world makes it almost impossible to find ISPs that don’t track the browsing activities of their users. Sweden has become a safe haven for those that don’t, but growing pressure from other governments and business interests could change that.
According to geekosystem.com, Sweden’s Piratpartiet (Pirate Party) is the world’s first truly anonymous ISP. It gained international recognition when file-sharing giant “The Pirate Bay” moved its operation to Pirate Party’s servers in Stockholm, Sweden after being shut down by authorities in the U.S. Pirate Party CEO Gustav Nipe says he won’t keep user logs or let the Swedish government monitor his users. He will also be cloaking (hiding) his ISP with ViaEuropa’s VPN (Virtual Private Network) service. Nipe appears unconcerned about pressure from U.S. authorities. When asked about it, he responded, “We don’t agree with what they are saying and we don’t agree with the laws they are making, so if they have an issue with us, then we will have an issue.” Pirate Party started beta testing its service in 2010, but expects to be nationwide before summer’s end.
In 2009, Tele 2, another Stockholm ISP, announced that it would delete all tracking data for its 600,000 customers. Tele 2 did this in response to strong demand from its users and in the hopes of expanding its customer base. CEO Niclas Palmstierna reviewed existing Swedish laws before making his decision, and he concluded, “We have no obligations at all to store information about our customer’s IP addresses.” Since Tele 2 is one of Sweden’s largest telecommunications providers, with operations in 11 countries, its decision has rocked the telecommunications world. According to statskontoret.se, Tele 2 had 38 percent of the Swedish market in 2005.
When WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange needed a safe place for his servers, Bahnhof’s secure location and history of privacy protection made Assange’s decision an easy one. Bahnhof was founded in 1994, and it’s one of Sweden’s oldest Internet Service Providers. Its new headquarters is a refurbished nuclear bunker in downtown Stockholm. It’s hard to imagine a more secure facility than one that’s 100 feet underground, behind 16-inch steel doors. Bahnhof uses diesel engines from old German submariness as a backup power source, and its 4,000-square-meter data center looks like something out of a James Bond movie. CEO Jon Karlung says “The Internet should be an open source for freedom of speech, and the role of an ISP is to be a neutral technological tool of access, not an instrument for collecting information from customers.” When Sweden passed its IPRED law, which requires ISPs to give up the personal records of anyone accused of file sharing, Bahnhof responded by destroying itscustomer log files. According to Karlung, Bahnhof owns a 2,300- kilometer network of fiber-optic cables and so far the Swedish government hasn’t tampered with them.
Although Sweden has become the operations base for anonymous ISPs, another privacy service that’s equally effective is in the Czech Republic. They encrypt the data you send and receive when you’re surfing the web and they filter it through a proxy network. This secure data tunnel is called “SSH tunneling” and it’s used by the U.S. Army to transmit top secret information (see fouth link below). “SSH tunneling” is a sure way to avoid profiling by your ISP and other parties and it can stop hackers from stealing your identity when you make an online purchase. Anyone who’s been a victim of identity theft knows that Internet commerce can be a curse when your personal accounts or credit cards are exposed. The security experts at commercecurse.com have a foolproof way to prevent this but their “SSH tunneling” system can also insure that everything you do online is no one’s business but your own.
Michael Suen, “World’s First Anonymous ISP Launched by Sweden’s Pirate Party” Geekosystem
Kerstin Sjoden, “Swedish ISP Thwarts Copyright Cops by Erasing Data” Wired
R. C. Camphausen, “WikiLeaks Servers are in 007-Style Underground Nuclear Bunker” Digital Journal
Shawn South, “Secure communications: Tunneling with SSH” Codemaster Shawn