A Web Hosting provider has numerous responsibilities, including that of protecting and safeguarding the content of their clients. But does that mean that a web host can look into your data and browse through your files? Can web hosts interfere with the content that you host and terminate or suspend your services based on their findings? This article deals with the responsibilities of a web hosting provider and how they may deal with clients’ hosted content.
Malicious or Infected Files
If you are storing malicious or infected files which are harming the performance or stability of the server or services being provided, the host can definitely intervene and suspend the account. Almost all hosts include such intervention clauses in their Web Hosting Terms of Service and also prefer to first respond and then ask for explanations. It is extremely fair for a web hosting company to intervene when there is a genuine concern about other accounts being infected or their servers being used as a tool or target of an attack or infection.
Copyrights is a major area where web hosts are requested to intervene. When a web hosting client or website owner refuses to comply with any take-down requests or any copyright infringement notices, the next step of action is to contact the hoster or network provider. Hosting companies often get sandwiched between complainants and clients, since the client has paid the hosting company for the services, but the complainant maybe an attorney or government authority with statutory powers. This is a major grey area for hosting companies, although by law they do not need to comply with any take-down request, unless they receive a court order, since they have no authority to decide or judge upon the nature of the copyright violation or to go into the merits of the complaint. However, due to immense pressure from law firms and complainants threatening to sue the network provider, many times accounts are suspended, pending investigation of the infringement.
If you think that you can get away with prohibited mass mailing or DoS attacks from your account, you maybe surprised to know that many hosts have various security mechanisms in place to detect and thwart any such activity automatically. In almost all cases of suspicious activity in which the hoster thinks that you are doing something which is suspicious, they may act reasonably and suspend your account, pending the investigation or justification from your side.
Requests from Governmental authorities
If a government authority requests that your account be terminated or suspended or maybe even handed over to them, then a hosting provider almost always has to comply. The service provider can rarely seek justification of the competency of the government authority as they are more interested in doing their business rather than getting into litigation.
Most hosts strive to protect and safeguard their clients’ information and content as long as it is legitimate and legal. If they do receive a take-down request or a request to interfere with their clients data, they always attempt to contact the client first and seek an explanation. If the client behaves in a suspicious or uncooperative way, they allow some time for resolution of the issue with the complainant. Thereafter, on a case to case basis, they suspend the account pending investigation. Service providers have limited powers and can be easily coerced into submission, due to their dependence on various other entities.