Swedish ISP, Banhof, is offering a service that provides its customers with total anonymity on the internet.
We have the privilege to be able to offer a solution for those who want to remain anonymous on the net. When you go online with our partner, all traffic to and from the Internet to go through their servers through an encrypted “tunnel”, which means that nobody can see what you are doing.
Bahnhof, which apparently now hosts the Wikileaks website, does not keep logs of customer activites and would not be able to provide this information to anyone requesting it for the purposes of litigation (*eg Rights Holders in pursuit of copyright infringers – a hot topic at the moment with regard to the Digital Economy Act).
This raises quite an interesting point. Currently the internet is a very open place. There is, by and large, no hiding unless you take very specific steps to do so. This is quite convenient from an engineering perspective. It makes it easier to debug internet related problems. However it also makes it very easy to track people down.
For example you can look up who owns a domain name and quite often find out their address, the ip addresses of the sever hosting that domain and the name of the ISP. Every email sent contains information regarding source IP address and indeed the ip address of every MTA (Mail Transfer Agent) it visits on its way to its destination. One might argue that from a personal privacy perspective this is not a good thing.
It would be a pretty costly project for all ISPs to implement such a system. It would also bring with it risks – suddenly it becomes a lot easier for governments to start monitoring all your traffic because it all goes through a single point (or at least a few points) on the network. In the UK the Data Protection Act if applied to an ISP would also prevent them from offering such an anonymizing service because legally they would be obliged to provide the logs.
This doesn’t stop us from aspiring to a scenario where there is an internet out there which protects your right to privacy. Unfortunately, regardless of the technical issues involved, Big Government and Big Business are likey to get in the way. Governments love to control and business wants as much information about you as it can lay its hands on. I really don’t know the answer but I would welcome comments.
PS I know not everyone can speak Swedish so for your benefit here is a link to a translation of the relevant page – a wonderful thing the wild, wild, web.