RealTime IT News

Data Dumps Recommended for ISPs

SANTA CLARA, Calif.-- Service providers faced with a growing amount of subpoenas and DMCA "take-down" requests should consider cleaning their network logs, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The San Francisco-based legal advocacy firm has published a set of best practices for ISPs to protect themselves from getting mired in privacy or copyright infringement issues.

"ISPs are having to add copyright and privacy protection as an extra transaction cost," EFF staff attorney Wendy Seltzer told attendees here at the ISPCON trade show. "They have to add staff to respond to take down requests and comb the logs to respond to subpoenas instead of offering best products. They are often being pulled into the disputes and are becoming a choke point because users need them to get their connection to the Net."

The EFF recommends that ISPs only keep the data logs that they really need. It also suggests they have a retention policy to remove those that are not necessary on a regular basis, such as URLs, cookies, data files, click stream and tap and trace information.

"What we are saying is, 'minimize the information,'" EFF staff attorney Kurt Opsahl internetnews.com. "Think about a plan for every piece of information and how long you need to keep it for. If you want to find out the unique visitors, you can use a hash to determine where they came from instead of keeping personal information on hand. We're trying to encourage people to avoid keeping 10 years worth of logs and piles of tapes for something that may or may not be used in the future."

Opsahl conceded that a publicly traded company may have more problems because they are bound to Sarbanes-Oxley regulations, but said financial records do not usually include personal and traceable information.

The problem is widespread enough to become a drag on the economy, according Elliot Noss, president and CEO of Web host Tucows . His biggest complaint beyond the increase in malware is that western countries are too strict when it comes to protecting IP laws.

"Intellectual property laws and related issues cost the economy 10 to 15 percent per year," Noss said. "Then you look at countries like China. Their advantage is not cheap labor but the absence of intellectual property laws. I'm not saying we have to abandon our IP laws, but you don't necessarily need protection for something that is a business innovation."

Noss noted that Microsoft and IBM are notorious for applying for and gaining broad patents that he said stifle competition.

For example, Noss said Microsoft's Sender ID standard does not match the work of the Internet Research Task Force and its efforts to curb spam.

The EFF's Seltzer said that the biggest concern at this point is silence by the smaller ISPs who may not know where to turn. California ISP Association Treasurer and CEO of ISP InReach Internet said even her organization is not able to keep up on all the issues.

"We need ISPs to come forward and give testimonials like 'we can't give customer support because we're dealing with these DMCA takedowns,'" Seltzer said.

The EFF currently hosts ChillingEffects.org, a clearinghouse where ISPs submit their subpoenas and take-down requests. Volunteer law students analyze the content and recommend appropriate action.

Opsahl said ChillingEffects follows Google's DMCA complaints, which average 10 to 15 requests a week; mostly asking the search engine to remove links from its index. The EFF also reported receiving as many as 50 notices a week from ISPs asking for such take-down requests such as DreamWorks, which request to remove a copy of Shrek II days after its theatrical release.

As for any predictions concerning the return of the Bush Administration for four more years, Seltzer only cautioned ISPs to be mindful of a Patriot Act that will more than likely be extended beyond the 2005 timeframe.