Earlier today, ServInt signed on to a letter, spearheaded by the Center for Democracy & Technology, that was sent to leaders in the U.S. House and Senate. The letter urged reform of U.S. surveillance practices “by limiting the scope of surveillance and by substantially enhancing…privacy protections, oversight, and accountability mechanisms” — specifically through the enactment of the USA FREEDOM Act, about which we’ve written here before.
Following is a transcript of the letter. Please take a moment to look it over — then contact your elected representatives to urge them to support it. If you’re looking for the Reader’s Digest version of what’s at stake here, it boils down to this: the USA FREEDOM Act would close a wide range of loopholes in previous homeland security-related legislation that make it easy for the government to gain access to your e-mail, data, and other private information, without warrants or the protection of other elements of basic due process. Here’s the letter: Read more
This past weekend, I had to take a long road trip to help somebody with an interstate move. As I often do when I’m struggling to keep my eyes open after many hours on the road, I tuned in some talk radio. As luck would have it, I managed to catch a half-hour or so of Glenn Beck’s daily radio program. On this occasion, Mr. Beck was spending a good portion of his time selling a new e-mail service — one which he claimed would “never, ever, ever” surrender any content to Uncle Sam unless the government first came armed with a warrant. For this privilege, Mr. Beck expected listeners to subscribe to his TV channel, for the modest annual fee of $99.95.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not writing this blog post to discuss Glenn Beck’s politics, or even his (considerable) marketing acumen. No, I’m reserving my precious blog column-inches to call Glenn Beck out for something that is well within my professional wheel-house: the fact that he is misinformed about how e-mail service providers are actually obligated to work with law enforcement, and, more importantly, the fact that he is not helping in the effort to get the NSA out of America’s e-mail inboxes.
To be fair, Glenn Beck is promising one thing that is under his control (though there are any number of e-mail service providers who offer it without the $99.95/yr price tag): that his service will not scan its customers’ e-mail accounts for the purpose of serving ads that match content included in those e-mails. However, Mr. Beck’s other claim — that his e-mail service will only yield to government inspection upon presentation of a warrant — well, let’s spend a moment looking at that more carefully. We’ll start by examining how Glenn Beck himself describes his offering, in a recent online “broadcast”:
(Note: I’m not going to provide any links to Beck content in this blog post. It’s easy to find plenty of Glenn Beck-sanctioned information about his e-mail offer with a simple web search.)
Beck says: “Everybody is scanning your e-mails, so they can… target you for the Feds…”
We say: The NSA scans a portion of all internet traffic, large enough that it could possibly contain most or all e-mail traffic sent inside the United States. This is being done without the consent of ISPs, web hosts and other e-mail providers. In addition, all e-mail service providers/web hosts are required, by law, to surrender any e-mail content they may have if they are served with a warrant by law enforcement. In fact, as detailed by our COO, Christian Dawson, in this post, there are circumstances where law enforcement can force e-mail service providers to hand over your old e-mails without a warrant. You cannot avoid the NSA scanning, or law enforcement searches, no matter how much you pay Glenn Beck.
Beck says: “The NSA and Google (scan your e-mail), and they’re in bed with each other.”
We say: Beck is conflating things here. Gmail does scan its users’ e-mail accounts, in order to serve them with targeted advertising — which they see as the price users of its e-mail service pay to get Gmail for “free.” Separately, documents released by Edward Snowden suggest that the NSA has been eavesdropping on e-mail traffic headed into and out of the Google network, completely unbeknownst to Google. In addition to that, Google, like all e-mail service providers, is required by law to respond to warrants and legal, warrantless requests requiring them to share e-mail content, if they have any. These things are not related to one another.
Beck says: “We’re not surrendering any lists, any emails, anything, without a warrant…”
We say: As I mentioned before, there is nothing Glenn Beck can do to prevent the NSA from “reading” his customers’ e-mail, or to avoid legal warrantless demands for old e-mails — so there’s not much to that promise.
So what’s the takeaway here? If you want to protect your e-mail from unlawful inspection by the government, sending Glenn Beck $99.95 won’t accomplish anything. But a few minutes of your time might. Our COO has written two recent blog posts about things you can do that won’t cost you a dime, and could make a huge difference: supporting the USA FREEDOM Act and keeping abreast of developments surrounding ECPA. Do yourself, and your country, a favor by checking these posts out and contacting your congressmen to urge their support as required. Glenn Beck is right about one thing: unauthorized, extra-legal snooping into e-mail accounts is unethical, un-American, and just plain wrong. We just wish he would use his considerable influence to help change things for the better.
Many of you know that ServInt is deeply involved in the fight for intelligent Internet legislation, through my part-time leadership role at the Internet Infrastructure Coalition. I took on that role for two main reasons: one, I care about the Internet. I believe the internet is fueling a global explosion of empowerment that will ultimately prove more lasting and more significant than the industrial revolution, and I want to do my part to make sure it all unfolds freely and fairly for everybody. Following from that, the second reason is that I care about making sure that as the internet grows, the rights of individuals and small businesses — i.e., the core of ServInt’s customer base — are never left behind. So when I represent the hosting industry in discussions about Internet governance, I’m also making sure that your voice is heard, loud and clear.
Making sure your voice is heard is why I’m here in Durban, South Africa, at ICANN 47 — the conference that sets policies and standards and manages open debate for assigned Internet names and numbers.
Those of you who are familiar with ICANN may be thinking: ”hold on, those guys aren’t really concerned with hosting and data centers!” But the truth is that ICANN’s impact on the hosting industry — and the integrity of your businesses — could be huge. Here’s how:
Right now, ICANN is working on a number of things related to domain names that greatly affect hosting providers, like rebooting WHOIS and working on DNSsec. They’re also launching a new generic top level domain (gTLD) system, which could create the biggest new pool of ‘digital real estate’ in the history of the commercial Internet — and they’re working hard to make sure that while doing all this, the Internet and your online business stay stable and secure throughout the process.
Lastly, and perhaps most urgently, ICANN is dealing with how the internet industry will interface with international law enforcement when information requests are filed. Clearly, these are all very important discussions for companies like ServInt, because businesses like yours could be directly affected by these changes.
So what am I doing to help?
To be honest, though I was asked here to speak on behalf of the i2Coalition, I’m spending a lot of my time meeting people and pressing our industry’s case for greater inclusion in the ICANN decision-making process. Your rights — as well as the reliability and affordability of the infrastructure that hosts your online business — need to be protected. The big copyright holders are here already, and they’ve got a seat at the table. Policy makers from developing nations who want to transition control of the internet to a multinational organization like the ITU are here, and they’ve got a seat at the table. We don’t, and I’m here to change that.
The good news is, folks are generally receptive. Most ICANN attendees I talk to aren’t asking “what are you doing here,” they’re asking “what took you so long?” We might have started down this road sooner if we’d known how urgent the mission for ICANN inclusion would eventually be. But we’re here now, and though it may take a while (“multi-stakeholder” organizations like the ICANN move verrrrrry slowwwwly), I am hopeful.
We were just moving some boxes around the office, and I uncovered a time capsule: a stack of ServInt Newsletters from the late 1990s. (We actually sent this newsletter out in the mail, when we all still thought it was clever to call it “snail mail.”
Our very first issue in May of 1997 profiled the recent additions to our tech staff. Reed’s quote about the six new hires perfectly captures the innocence of us and the Internet in 1997: “Clients wanted better tech support, so we wanted to give it to them… We’ve assembled a really good team. Clients will see we’ve got a tech staff now that they can rely on.”
Another great page I found from July of ’97 offers “Expert Help” with articles about how to test your line to see if you can use 56k modems for your ServInt dial-up account and the benefits of using content tags like <strong> over physical tags like <bold>. Oh, for the simpler days.
The Internet was a very different beast when we were writing these newsletters, but the excitement of the technology and the time is something that we still hold close at ServInt today.
I hope you enjoy this look into the past, and who knows, you may see more in the future.
Click on the images below to see more of our vintage rag, and see if you can pick out our very own Director of Information, Curtis Berry in the back row of the picture. He was one of the new hires profiled in our first issue.
At 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).
It’s not often that we pull back the marketing curtain here at ServInt and expose the inner workings of why and how we choose to engage with our customers, but today is a special day.
If you follow us at all, you know that we strive to put out blog posts, knowledgebase articles and white papers (like this one) that educate, inform, and answer important and popular questions, and we use Facebook, Twitter, and occasionally paid advertising to get that content in front of our audience.
We also, of course, keep an open ear to our social media outlets and engage with customers who want to talk with us there.
We enjoy talking with you through social media channels, and we think it’s important. So does our Chief Operating Officer, Christian Dawson. That’s why — starting today — he’s asked us to let more key ServInt employees drive the conversation on Twitter, with Christian taking over as the primary voice of ServInt’s Twitter feed. Our goal is that as time goes on, you’ll get more perspective on who ServInt is as a company. Additionally, if you want to talk to the guy responsible for all of our day-to-day operations — the guy who manages the managers — all you have to is reach out to us at @servint. Christian will be the guy reading what you have to say, and, unless he’s not available, he’ll be the guy responding too. And if he’s not the right person for the job, he’ll be pulling in the people that are. We expect some interesting discussions to follow!
The marketing and engineering teams will still be on ServInt’s Twitter feed posting updates on the content we publish and watching out for technical questions we can help answer. But know that if you have a question for our leadership, or if you just want a friendly chat, Christian is on the case!
If you’re like many of our web designers and other affiliate program members, you may have struggled with explaining to your clients exactly which server you’d like them to buy from us. And while it’s much easier with ServInt’s new three-page ordering system, there can still be a lot of explaining to do.
Not any more.
ServInt’s new Custom Shop enables you to pre-fill ordering pages for the hosting packages you recommend to your clients, leaving only the name and payment fields blank.
Simply save those pre-populated pages and the Custom Shop automatically generates a URL for the pages. Then simply forward the URLs to your clients for vastly simplified ordering.
Check out this KB article that takes you through the process step by step.
The Custom Shop is an integral part of ServInt’s all-new PowerPartner affiliate program that now lets you choose cash or hosting credit for your referrals. Read more
The spring saw the release of both our Flex line of next-generation virtualized servers as well as our Java Cloud solution, Jelastic, and we continued to enhance each of these products throughout the year.
In May, we opened ServInt EU with our new data center in Amsterdam. Now, ServInt customers located in Europe, Africa and the Middle East have another option for their web hosting needs.
Though it went largely under the radar on the ServInt Source, much of the summer at ServInt was taken up by a move to our new Headquarters in Reston, Virginia. Check out our Facebook page for pictures and updates about the new space.
This fall, Christian took his industry lobbying efforts to the next level and helped found the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, the i2C.
And finally, as we rode out Frankenstorm in October and released Virtuozzo 4.7 to our customers in the fall. We also completely rebuilt our ordering system and created the PowerPartner Program to allow all resellers and affiliates to more easily make and save money on their hosting.
All in all, it’s been a pretty big year. Click on any of the links above if you missed our announcements when they came out, and keep tuning in to the ServInt Source to see all that we have in store for 2013.Photo by evalottchen.
This week’s a big week at ServInt. After a lot of hard work, we have an all-new ordering system for our entire line of products. Not only is it simpler and more intuitive with only three pages for the entire order process, but we’ve also built in some pretty exciting functionality.
The Custom Shop allows you to configure and save server packages
Our all-new Custom Shop is a powerful tool that lets customers and non-customers alike configure and save servers packages for later purchase or to send to their referral clients. More than a simple shopping cart, the custom shop allows you to: Read more
Faithful readers of this blog know that each year around this time, I turn into a one-man social media army for my favorite web-based charitable event, the annual Desert Bus for Hope drive-a-thon.
Each year, ServInt donates free server hardware and bandwidth for the Desert Bus event, and we’re proud to do so. What could be more ServInt mission-friendly than making it possible for event contestants to play the world’s cruelest, most pointless, most existentially hopeless video game — for days on end, without ceasing, until they literally drop from exhaustion? It’s for the children, dammit!
Seriously, I won’t go into the many, many reasons why this event is so amazing. Just trust me on this one — or check out our 2010 and 2011 blog posts for more detail, video snippets, and the greatest appearance by Lou Reed in any video game, ever.
Oh, and visit http://desertbus.org to join in the fun, and give generously. Thanks!