Aren’t ISPs required to conceal their clients’ identities?

Monday, December 2, 2002

No. No law requires Internet Service Providers to protect users’ identities, or even to warn them if subpoenas have been issued seeking to reveal them. But some major ISPs and other online companies, such as Earthlink, America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo!, have made it standard practice to inform their subscribers of potential lawsuits against them.

It is now commonplace for ISPs to be served with subpoenas to reveal information about their members' activities — as well as their identities. Any Internet user who has concerns could look at the privacy policy/terms of use page on the ISP's web site. It will spell out what the ISP will do (if anything) if the company is served with a subpoena.