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The Two Kinds of Safe Harbor

safe harborAt ServInt we are dedicated to the privacy of our customers and to the creation of sensible legislation that supports our customers but still empowers law enforcement in ways that make sense in the 21st century. It’s one of the reasons we work so hard with i2Coalition to make sure that we influence public policy in a way that’s pro-Internet innovation. It’s one of the reasons we are focused on the reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

When we talk to our customers about their privacy, or when they reference our privacy policy, we tend to mention the phrase Safe Harbor. Only there are two important things in web hosting called Safe Harbor, so there sometimes ends up being some confusion about what is being discussed. We thought we’d clarify it for you.

US/EU Safe Harbor

The United States and the EU have different laws for privacy. US/EU Safe Harbor is a program between the US Department of Commerce and The European Commission’s Directive on Data Protection. US/EU Safe Harbor attempts to bridge that gap between privacy laws in the two jurisdictions and make it so that companies in the EU who are bound to operate within EU privacy laws can do so within the United States and vice versa.

ServInt complies with US/EU Safe Harbor – which means that ServInt’s privacy policies go above and beyond the requirements of both US and EU. Since our policies meet adequacy requirements in both jurisdiction, signing on to this program and recommitting to it each year allows us to accept European clients that require operation that conforms to EU privacy requirements.

DMCA Safe Harbor

DMCA Safe Harbor is the other “safe harbor” we often speak of. It is completely different from US/EU Safe Harbor, having to do with how copyrighted materials are handled on the Internet. DMCA Safe Harbor is a provision within the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that allows web hosts like ServInt to be indemnified against being liable for copyright violations on our network as long as we comply with a certain framework.

ServInt handles millions of websites on its network. There is no way for us to monitor the activities of all of our users, and there would be major privacy concerns if we even tried. In exchange for protection from prosecution for the actions of our customers, the DMCA Safe Harbor framework requires us to set up points of official contact so that people can post DMCA complaints if they see a copyright violation on our network. If a DMCA complaint is filed, we need to comply with it, and work to address it. Otherwise we aren’t required to monitor our customer’s websites from a legal point of view, which is essential.

That’s just a basic overview of the two kinds of Safe Harbor – both important things a good US based host needs to have operations around if it wants to succeed for all its clients, both in the US and in Europe.

Photo by Bruno Girin.

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