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Censorship Data Storage Government The Internet United Kingdom News

The Fall of Data Haven Sealand 210

Posted by Soulskill
from the countdown-to-when-we-repeat-this-with-cloudland dept.
Fluffeh writes "Ars has a great article about the history of Sealand, a data haven — a place where you can host almost anything, as long as it follows the very bare laws of Sealand Government. Quoting: 'HavenCo's failure — and make no mistake about it, HavenCo did fail — shows how hard it is to get out from under government's thumb. HavenCo built it, but no one came. For a host of reasons, ranging from its physical vulnerability to the fact that The Man doesn't care where you store your data if he can get his hands on you, Sealand was never able to offer the kind of immunity from law that digital rebels sought. And, paradoxically, by seeking to avoid government, HavenCo made itself exquisitely vulnerable (PDF) to one government in particular: Sealand's.'"
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The Fall of Data Haven Sealand

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:15AM (#39495045)

    The idea that you could escape from your own government's laws by keeping your data somewhere else is preposterous on its face. At some point, you have to get that data, and that data will have to cross into your own location, which would make you in possession of the data and liable for possessing it. Unlike Swiss bank accounts which hold money secretly for you, and are relatively safe from the prying eyes of the government, data is something that is not as easily picked up in person.

    Tor onions. Are they good or are they whack?

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      At some point, you have to get that data, and that data will have to cross into your own location, which would make you in possession of the data and liable for possessing it.

      What about a situation wherein you move data from Server A in Germany to Server B in Switzerland? It never crosses your computer, all you do is send the command.

      • by necro81 (917438)

        What about a situation wherein you move data from Server A in Germany to Server B in Switzerland? It never crosses your computer, all you do is send the command

        You score a technical point, but I have to ask: what would be the practical usefulness of doing that. It's like hoarding money, or ammo, or food: although you can wave it around and its presence might make you feel secure, if you don't actually use it all you've gone is created a big pile.

    • You know that, for most intents and purposes, money is just data, right?

    • The reason Sealand was created was an understanding that most often, government and law enforcement will attempt to shut down the SOURCE of data they have a problem with. Just like the "War on Drugs", they're most interested in catching the major dealers, as opposed to small time individual drug users (though certainly, many of them get caught in the wide nets they're constantly putting out, too).

      With computer data, it's kind of an "every man for himself" situation out there. If you want to view illegal con

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Not to mention you might not want to start with a former British military outpost which is located beyond any doubt what so ever inside the territorial waters of England and has ALWAYS been considered British soil. They could of moved London on board and it wouldn't have mattered, its part of England.

        What these guys did was no different than a moon shiner in the Ozarks claiming he doesn't live in America and isn't bound by American laws.

        He can say it, but you're an idiot if you believe him.

        But back to what

    • by fermion (181285)
      The banking analogy is really good. But we have to take it further. While storing your money in a swiss or Caribbean account provides great benefit with lesser risk, due to high costs, storing anything other than warez on Data Haven is a high risk low benefit venture that do not justify the high costs.

      If I am earning 1 million dollars a year, one supposes that having the money deposited in an offshore account with a reputation of safety may be a good thing. I can pay them much less than would be requir

  • ah, libertarians (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:17AM (#39495063)

    The freedom-minded Hastings had moved to Anguilla to work on online gambling projects

    What they really want is an abolition of all regulation so they can exploit your weaknesses and suck you dry.

    I wonder whether Parker and Stone are finally realising this with their latest South Park episode on Cash for Gold services?

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:18AM (#39495075) Journal
      Libertarian, n:

      A person who believes that oppression is best handled by the private sector.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:06AM (#39495403)

        Democrat, n:
        A person who believes the more government you have, the freer you are.

        Republican, n:
        A person who believes that every American is born with a mandate to love Jesus and murderously despise foreigners.

        Inaccurate and inflammatory statemens are fun!

        • by Guppy06 (410832) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @11:31AM (#39497751)

          Republican, n:
          A person who believes that every American is born with a mandate to love Jesus and murderously despise foreigners.

          If you think that's an inaccurate statement, you haven't been paying attention to the primary debates.

        • At least we can agree on one thing: fuck authoritarians. By far, the least popular corner of the ideological diamond. Among people who do not have power in the government that is.
        • In US context, I don't see anything inaccurate about your statements. They're just as spot on as GP's definition of libertarian.

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        I was amused.. people need to lighten up!

      • by JamesP (688957)

        Well, no, they don't think that

        They usually think that the Government does a excellent job at it.

  • Waste of effort (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:21AM (#39495085)

    Sealand has no practical sovereignty. The most they can say is that so far the UK hasn't chosen to take over, and they're not aware of any plans to do so. Nobody believes the UK couldn't take Sealand if they want to. Nobody believes that it would be a diplomatic problem for the UK in their relations with other countries if they did. So Sealand, at best, can operate only if the UK lets it. That's not sovereign in any meaningful sense. Even if you feel that it would be wrong for the UK to interfere, that's hardly something you're going to rely on to stop them doing so.

  • I wonder why no REAL country in this world wouldn't receive Wikileaks voluntarily. I mean... there has to be a real government out there who just loves trashing the other BIG countries with wikileaks. In the end it's information and information can be used to manipulate people.. somebody MUST love the idea, even if that somebody is a country low on human rights like North Korea or Burma. I'm not saying it's a good thing to have this data being used for manipulations.. I'm just wondering why is there that no
    • and there is that pesky little problem of the other countries being able to threaten corporations and banks so that you would have no commerce.

    • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:34AM (#39495693) Homepage

      It's like this. North Korea would be *thrilled*, just thrilled to host Wikileaks. As long as Assange can make reasonable (read "absolutely iron clad" ) guarantees that North Korea itself will never, ever, ever be portrayed as anything other than a country of perfection and bliss. The problem for Wikileaks is two fold:

      1) They are equal opportunity whistle-blowers. They aren't going to compromise their principles by immunizing their host country from scrutiny.
      2) Most countries that really want to embarrass the US have far worse secrets than the US does, and even less of a sense of humor about them being revealed.

      The US may want to prosecute Assange and put him in jail for revealing classified documents (Which I happen to think they can't legally do, he neither stole those documents, nor had legal access to them via having signed a security agreement. He just published what someone else gave him), but North Korea would happily put him in a labor camp and work him to death for publishing anything that reflects vaguely poorly on them.

      • by idontgno (624372)

        They aren't going to compromise their principles by immunizing their host country from scrutiny.

        ^This. The moment Wikileaks or anyone of the like starts tailoring their revelations to shield some and damage others, they become another propaganda organ and lose any credibility they might have.

        So the idea of stateless hosting is probably quite appealing, even if it's a mere fantasy.

      • When you give a government a black eye, that is a crime in and of itself to those in charge. It is a foolish man who taunts a government like he did. When you piss off those in power to that degree, the law becomes quite irrelevant. Why couldnt he release anonymously? Why did he have to attach his name to it? O thats right because hes a self-aggrandizing asshole. They dont care if they break the law to get you, and will most likely get away with it.
    • Wikileaks had dirt on every country where the US have/had an embassy... Which doesn't leave that many.
      • Wikileaks had dirt on every country where the US have/had an embassy... Which doesn't leave that many.

        ...and the ones it leaves are generally ones where there was no embassy because of known human rights abuses (namely, places that wouldn't let WikiLeaks operate in the first place).

  • by 1s44c (552956) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:28AM (#39495123)

    Sealands failed because hosting anything there was crazy expensive and their only known data link was WIFI from the UK mainland.

    Also anytime the UK government felt like shutting them down they could. The UN won't defend a country it doesn't recognize.

    • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:44AM (#39495817)

      Also anytime the UK government felt like shutting them down they could. The UN won't defend a country it doesn't recognize.

      Even easier than that: they could just shut down the Wifi access point, which would be on UK territory... Same weakness than the raspberry pies in the sky, really...

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      The UN won't defend a country it doesn't recognize.

      In other words, the UN won't defend anybody from the USA, Russia, China, the UK, or France, or an ally of one of those powers, unless there's some complex diplomatic maneuvering like what happened at the beginning of the Korean War.

  • by Albanach (527650) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:28AM (#39495125) Homepage

    Isn't the big problem that Sealand's cables would still have to come ashore somewhere? Even if they used satellite the ground stations would still be in somebody's jurisdiction.

    The only way I can see their concept working is on their local LAN. Once they hook up to the internet, they can simply be regulated through their upstream carriers.

    • by 1s44c (552956)

      They didn't even have cables or the satellite connection they claimed to have. It was long distance WIFI done on the cheap from the UK mainland.

      Their setup was rubbish.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Sealand could launch its own satellite and bypass all of that stuff.

      • Nah... Sealand is smaller than the footprint required to launch a rocket. Also, at that latitude it would be more difficult than at the equator. They would need to aquire territory near the equator and with a military of two people- that might be tough.

        • by CityZen (464761)

          You're taking him too literally. The idea is that Sealand would pay another entity, like say Sea Launch, to put the satellites up.
          Of course, in this case it wouldn't happen due to the expense.

          But it's still a novel idea. What if you put the servers on the satellite as well? Anyone with an appropriate dish could access it.
          What country would be able to say "You can't put that data up there!" (This is assuming that one could overcome all the
          issues surrounding satellite positioning and bandwidth allocation

  • by LittleImp (1020687) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @07:58AM (#39495349)
    This story shows up every couple of months...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @08:04AM (#39495387)

    How can it be, when there are no horses?

    UK - Horses.

    US - Horses

    Spain - Horses.

    Sweden - Horses

    France - Horses

    Sealand - No horses!

  • by sirwired (27582) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @09:31AM (#39496405)

    Sealand (and HavenCo)... just like BitCoins. Interesting in an academic sense, but not at all practical or viable in the real world, for reasons which should have been obvious to everyone involved before things even got started.

  • The proper English spelling of naÃveté is libertarianism, as in, "all we need to do is create our own island and we would be free".

    No you wouldn't, and if you had spent five seconds thinking about it you would see the obvious flaws on your naÃve solution. Or you can call it "libertarian" and automatically feel validated without having to think about it.

    • The proper English spelling of naÃveté ...

      Not sure what OS you typed that on, but on my Mac that doesn't look like the proper English spelling of anything.

      • by Alomex (148003)

        Windows. I thought by now an HTML form editor would be smart enough to convert on its own to HTML entities but I was wrong.

        I tried previewing it, but got a 406 message and then the thing got posted automagically when I tried to preview it again.

        Naïveté

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @11:20AM (#39497623) Homepage

    Having read the whole paper, the history part is great, and the legal part is speculative. The key point that comes out is that Sealand was just too small to be taken seriously as a country. The population ranged from 1 to 4. That was the big problem.

    If you wanted to start a data haven, Nauru is probably the place. Nauru, population about 9000, is a moderately successful financial haven. Nauru is recognized as a country by all the relevant organizations. It's been a popular location for "High Yield Investment Programs".

    The country was once supported by phosphate mines, and had a very high income per capita until the phosphate ran out in the 1980s. 90% of the land area is now a useless wasteland. [wikipedia.org] 90% of the people are unemployed. GDP of the whole country is $60 million and dropping. Only aid from Australia keeps the place going. If someone was looking for a microstate to buy, Nauru would be the choice.

    That's the low end of microstates.

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