Monday, January 31, 2011

Which US cable providers have privacy preserving data retention policies?

The decision to not retain logs of its customers' IP addresses is one of the best ways that a company can proactively take a stand in defense of user privacy. Two of Sweden's largest residential ISPs have adopted such policies, with one even taking the additional step of routing all its customers data through an encrypted VPN service in order to anonymize the source of the traffic.

Here in the US, it is unfortunate that Internet Service Providers seem unwilling to embrace such aggressive, pro-user data deletion policies. Instead, firms like Google make full use of Doublespeak in order to justify their retention of user data (Those IP addresses we keep? Yeah, they're not really private information. Quick, look over there! We've created self-driving cars).

However, even if US service providers have not embraced privacy, it appears that one or two firms have enacted policies that as a perhaps perhaps unintentional side-effect do significantly enhance their users' privacy.

At a data retention hearing in the House of Representatives last week, Jason Weinstein, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice testified. Half-way through his written remarks is this interesting fact:
"One mid-size cell phone company does not retain any records, and others are moving in that direction. A cable Internet provider does not keep track of the Internet protocol addresses it assigns to customers, at all. Another keeps them for only seven days."
As I described in a blog post last week, the mid-size cell phone company he mentioned is most likely T-Mobile.

Unfortunately, I have no idea about the identity of the two cable companies he identified.

Since one of these firms keeps no logs at all, none of its customers have been targeted in filesharing lawsuits, and it will not have passed on a single DMCA complaint. Depending on how fast the media companies send out their complaints and lawsuit shakedown letters, it is quite possible that the customers of the second cable company may have escaped such harassment too.

My question to those of you who follow the copyright infringement space is this: Do you know of any cable company whose customers have escaped filesharing lawsuits? If so, it might be because the firm has embraced a zero IP data retention policy.

I'd love to know who this is -- and if I live in their service area, I'd love to give them my business.


Anonymous said...

Chris, I have an off topic question, relevant to the issues you rise in the blog but nor ever mentioned.

Is it any way (if yes, how it can justified in terms of law) to hear the conversations of people from their turned off cell phones?

Anonymous said...

I know that Time Warner at least why trying to fight back against the extortion tactics of some law firms looking for thousands of IP's to sue over copyright, by using extortion. Time Warner stated in their comment to the judge that they retain IP logs for 6 months. Which apparently is shorter than some other big name ISP's. Other ISP's just handed over the info without any fight.