In most outsourcing or Web-hosting contracts, the identity, history, credibility and reliability of the hosting company gets a long, hard look from most prospective clients. Potential clients get the same kind of look from providers concerned their facilities could be used as bases for spam, fraud, copyright infringement or other services that could get hosting providers named as accomplices.
It might be more private to keep those services within one’s own datacenter, but the economic benefits of outsourcing are irresistible: according to a new KPMG survey, more than half of companies that outsource any applications or IT services at all plan to increase their use of outsourcers this year.
Best practices, and common sense, would seem to require a certain amount of mutual disclosure.
Increasingly, however, scandals about government and corporate surveillance have made many users and site owners leery of too much scrutiny—to the point that some Web-service hosting companies are going farther than ever to protect their clients’ anonymity.
Most domain registrars allow customers to remain anonymous to the Internet, by replacing the customer’s contact information with that of the provider in documents searched by Whois services. One that launched today goes much further, offering business-class Web services to customers who remain anonymous even to the service company—by allowing customers to pay using crypto-currency Bitcoin rather than credit cards, bank transfers or other highly identifiable methods.
“We provide solutions for people seeking anonymity,” BitcoinWebHosting co-founder Robert Lons wrote in a blog posting announcing the service.
Rather than have customers buy services in the normal way—and run the risk that their name and contact information might become public accidentally or could be subpoenaed or spied upon covertly by government agencies, BitcoinWebHosting accepts alternative-currency Bitcoin.
It decided to do so, according to Lon, partly to offer an unusual level of anonymity, and partly as a way to give fugitives, rebels and outcasts a platform that doesn’t also make them a target. “Ideas can be stifled, but truth and great ideas will always prosper,” he wrote, “because the great majority of us are capable of making rational, intelligent decisions when given the chance. But how often are we given that chance?”
He added: “I find it strange that in a world where the KKK can process credit cards, whistleblowers like Ed Snowden are wanted criminals and Wikileaks can’t get a PayPal address to save their life.”
The BitcoinWebHosting service is primarily aimed at bloggers, but the company also offers cloud-hosting plans with capacities high enough to accommodate most small- the mid-sized businesses. For $209 per month, for example, it offers 5,000GB of bandwidth per month, along with 100GB of disk space and two dedicated IPs—more than enough for most small- to mid-sized businesses. It also throws in server proxies designed to deflect DDOS attacks, 99.9 percent server uptime, and high-quality hardware.
Interest in online anonymity has skyrocketed since the revelation of the National Security Agency’s PRISM digital surveillance program and the almost-unlimited access other government agencies seem to have to online user accounts. The blowback has increased business and traffic at anonymous search site DuckDuckGo and anonymous e-mail services such as Hushmail.
The dustup has also exposed a deep mistrust of any corporate or government authorities on the part of mobile workers who worry that employers will covertly collect personal information from the personal devices workers bring in under BYOD policies. Almost half of Europeans and two thirds of Americans fear the loss of personal data by using personal devices at work, according to a survey of more than 3,000 mobile users by Aruba Networks.
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