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.

News Around the Web