If Money: Swiss Bank then Data: ?

While my last blog on Internet privacy was a satisfying effort, the groundwork got me exposed to some disturbing details around data collection and the contracts that I have signed up for. With Google’s unified privacy policy, nowadays I either access Google or Gmail from a particular device. I have this feeling, whatever I type and click (be it a MS Word document, PowerPoint) might appear in my friend’s news feed and I think Amazon knows what coffee I’m going to buy tomorrow. If ‘information is wealth’ and when data like crash information of my computer can be of interest to someone, maybe ‘data is money’ too. In my experience, every online vendor has wanted some part of my identity i.e. some data to do business with. In the last few weeks, I was looking for a vendor in the Internet, who simply does business and doesn’t give a damn for one’s identity. Someone who can allow me experience privacy in its literal sense, maybe the way a ‘swiss bank’ treats it? Much to my surprise, I did find one such vendor and it is understandably controversial too.

Switzerland has inspired me through its armed neutrality policy. By staying neutral during both the world wars, Switzerland in a way has earned the world’s trust. Switzerland is also famed for is its banking secrecy (Singapore is a close contender these days). Switzerland’s banking laws are built on the premise that ‘privacy’ is one’s fundamental right and it is a criminal offence to reveal one’s private data. Historically especially in the recent past, Switzerland has been challenged for its banking secrecy and has yielded to international pressure on certain occasions too. Still, most of its banking secrecy laws still persist. By weathering many such storms, Swiss banks have definitely earned the customer’s trust in keeping their information private. Maybe a reason why a third of world’s offshore funds are estimated to be present in Swiss banks.

If I imagine Internet as a medium to express, I would map ‘swiss bank’ experience to the ability to stay totally anonymous in the web. To allow such levels of anonymity, like privacy in Switzerland, ‘freedom of speech’ should be recognized and honored as a fundamental right. Sweden strongly believes in this. Sweden is a pioneer in officially abolishing censorship and more importantly Sweden constitution gives the right for total anonymity in expressing one’s views unless it is perceived as a hate speech. While it is understandably difficult to draw the line, Sweden continues to strive to draw (or not draw) this line. Interestingly Sweden has many parallels with Switzerland. Like Switzerland, Sweden is also famed for its armed Neutrality. Sweden too stayed neutral in both the world wars. Sweden also offers high quality life and was ranked second (next to Switzerland) most competitive nation in the 2010 World Economic forum.

Sweden’s belief in ‘freedom of speech’ makes it less difficult for companies like Wikileaks to host their websites there. I think Freedom of Speech along with Sweden’s location (close to the Artic) makes an attractive choice for green data centers of the future (and present) as well. One specific vendor caught my attention and that is PRQ. PRQ is a web hosting company. PRQ claims to have a spotless track record in hosting some of the controversial websites in this world. Looks like PRQ needs no details about the customer and all what they need is a valid email address to receive an invoice. The disclaimer in their website is simply mind-blowing.

I think if Money: Swiss Bank then Data: Swedish Data Center.