Privacy Friendly Offshore Web Hosting Providers
Here are offshore hosting providers that have privacy friendly polices and practices in place.
Hosting Providers That Are Privacy Advocates
These hosting providers go above and beyond to provide as privacy friendly hosting to their customers as possible.
Bahnhof and DataCell own and operate their own data centers. FlokiNET host their server in data centers owned by Advania (Icelandic data center, Icelandic company), Crea Nova (Finnish data center, Russian company), and Voxility (Romanian data center, UK company). OrangeWebsite host their servers in Advania's data center. Greenhost uses an EvoSwitch data center, but fully owns and controls the hardware.
FlokiNET is an Icelandic hosting provider that is quite popular with privacy advocates. It is one of the most privacy friendly hosting providers on the planet: They allow users to pay with cryptocurrencies like Monero (and of course Bitcoin), as well as cash by mail and Paysafecard (prepaid card). Flokinet is rated 3.61/5 by 14 reviews on HostSearch. FlokiNET doesn't have the glorious near perfect review ratings that OrangeWebsite has, but unlike OrangeWebsite, FlokiNET accepts payments via cash by mail and Paysafecard, their Icelandic VPS' are a lot cheaper than OrangeWebsite's, and it is a nice option for those who want privacy friendly hosting in Romania or Finland. Romania is the country with the least surveillance in Europe (though that might have changed, since the report is from 2010), and Finland places 4th on Reporters Without Borders' 2018 World Press Freedom Index. A good sign that FlokiNET takes privacy and freedom of speech seriously is that they allow Tor exit and relay nodes as well as VPN services to be hosted on their dedicated and virtual servers, which not many companies do, especially when it comes to Tor exit nodes that get regular abuse complaints. FlokiNET also runs several Tor nodes themselves in order to support the Tor Project. FlokiNET's servers are encrypted with AES 256-bit encryption and also perform daily backups for free. Porn is technically illegal in Iceland, so that is not allowed to be hosted on their Icelandic servers, but is allowed on their servers in Romania and Finland. FlokiNET doesn't enforce DMCA - and also has a legal department to deal with abuse complaints like that - which is good considering how out of control DMCA has gotten.. The FlokiNET staff only use end-to-end encrypted communication systems and their all of their work stations are pre-boot encrypted with AES 256-bit encryption. FlokiNET's servers are powered by renewable energy.
OrangeWebsite is an Iceland-based offshore hosting provider that focuses on privacy and freedom of speech. The owner of OrangeWebsite is said to be an anarchist that strongly supports freedom of speech, and both he and the company itself were strongly against the SOPA and PIPA legislation. OrangeWebsite ignores complaints that does not violate Icelandic laws or OrangeWebsite's Terms of Service. A good indication of OrangeWebsite's commitment to privacy and freedom of speech is that they accept Tor relay and exit nodes to be hosted on their VPS servers, which not many companies do, especially when it comes to exit nodes that get regular abuse complaints. OrangeWebsite offers two-factor authentication, only requires an email address to create an account, and - in addition to accepting credit/debit cards via PayPal and bank transfers - they also accept anonymous payments via cryptocurrencies like Monero and, of course, Bitcoin. OrangeWebsite's servers run on 100% green and renewable energy. OrangeWebsite is the highest rated Islandic web host with a rating of 8.9/10 on TrustPilot based on 126 user reviews and a rating of 4.68/5 on HostSearch based on 123 user reviews. According to WebHostingStuff, OrangeWebsite has an average uptime of 99.95%, which is above the industry average of 99.94% uptime. From February 2011 to February 2018, it has had 57 outages, resulting in a combined 52 hours and 20 minutes of downtime in seven years.
DataCell is an Icelandic hosting provider that WikiLeaks used in the past. DataCell handled donations via for WikiLeaks via DataCell's credit card gateway until VISA and MasterCard decided to shut down DataCell's gateway, making it impossible for DataCell to receive any money via credit card payments, even for their own hosting services. Instead of doing what a lot of companies probably would have done (drop WikiLeaks and beg the credit card companies for forgiveness), DataCell took them to court twice and won. The blockade against DataCell lasted for over two years, from December 7th, 2010 to May of 2013. The point of that story is basically that DataCell is pretty reliable.
DataCell operates their own data center in Switzerland. I'm not sure if their Icelandic data center is still running, though. DataCell's data centers are 100% powered by renewable energy.
Bahnhof is a hosting provider and residential ISP that is the role model for how a responsible company should act. Bahnhof is based in Sweden, which has some of the strongest press freedom laws in the world. They have hosted WikiLeaks and The Pirate Bay in their nuclear bunker called White Mountain (which looks like something from out of a James Bond movie) and are known as a free speech ISP. The same people who run Bahnhof also run a security, privacy, and liberty non-profit called the 5th of July Foundation. Bahnhof is currently providing hosting to a press freedom hosting service that helps news agencies in regimes to stay online. Bahnhof's data centers are 100% powered by renewable energy and all the excess heat generated by the service is used to heat up nearby households. Bahnhof started a certification for this process that is called Triple Green. While hosting WikiLeaks is a great thing to do, what really makes Bahnhof applaudable is their stance and actions against mass surveillance. Their slogan "Internet with privacy" says it all. Back in 2013 when the Swedish Security Service secretly started pressuring ISPs in Sweden to give the Swedish Security Service automated direct access into their systems in order to conduct mass surveillance, Bahnhof was the only ISP that spoke out and they did so when the CEO of Bahnhof, Jon Karlung, secretly recorded the Swedish Security Services demands and threats and leaked it to the Swedish press. Just last year, Bahnhof leaked documents about a government proposal for increased data retention (which is also in violation of EU data regulations). The day the European Court of Justice overturned the EU data retention directive, Bahnhof published a press release saying “Just hours after the verdict I [Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung] ordered our technicians to abort storing traffic data about our customers. Moreover, we erased existing data.” When Bahnhof was told by Swedish telecoms regulator PTS that they still had to log their customers Internet activities under Swedish law, Bahnhof provided a VPN service run by the 5th of July Foundation for free to all its customers. Copyright trolls started suing Internet users across Sweden and demanding Internet subscriber info from Bahnhof, but since Bahnhof only stores IP addresses for 24 hours, there was no data for the copyright trolls to demand from Bahnhof. Bahnhof then decided to register the name of the copyright trolls campaign, Spridningskollen (roughly translates to The Distribution Check) with the Swedish Patent and Registration Office, send the copyright trolls a collection letter for trademark infringement, and start a website in Swedish called Utpressningskontrollen (which roughly translates to The Extortion Check) about the issue and all of the ongoing legal cases.
Greenhost is an environmentally friendly hosting provider based in the Netherlands that focuses greatly on privacy and security. Greenhost hasn't logged any data since 2009 and have urged other hosting providers to do the same by setting up an informative website about data logging in the Netherlands. Greenhost is a big supporter of open source software and encryption, is mostly built on open source software, has integrated free, open source Let's Encrypt TLS certificates into their hosting platform, and suppors DNSSEC. Greenhost performs daily website backups and daily database backups for free.
Ratings: 4.6/5 based on 25 user reviews on webhosters 4.7/5 based on 11 user reviews on Facebook 4.4/5 based on 7 user reviews on Host-reviews.nl 100/100 based on 7 user reviews on ISPGids.com
Greenhost was one of seven Internet service and communications providers to file a legal complaint calling for the end of GCHQ's unlawful hacking of network infrastructure for mass surveillance. It also signed an open letter calling for state ambassadors to implement Net Neutrality in the EU, making it the only hosting provider to sign the open letter and also the only corporate signee as all other signees were organizations. Greenhost signed another open letter urging Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook - to defend Net Neutrality on Facebook's Internet.org platform. Greenhost has published a 244 page long "Basic Internet Security" manual, helps journalists and and activists around the world to communicate freely and sponsors organizations that are committed to freedom, sustainability and culture, such as Free Press Unlimited and De Concertzender, helps five whistleblowing sites with their technical expertise, and is the hosting provider chosen and promoted by the non-profit organization Privacy First. Greenhost also developed a now discontinued proxy plugin for WordPress to prevent censorship.
Other Privacy Friendly Hosting Providers
These are hosting providers aren't outspoken privacy advocates, but they will do their best in guarding your personal information nonetheless.
NFOrce Entertainment is a Netherlands-based hosting provider that is known for donating dedicated servers to the Tor network via torservers.net. They are also one of the three hosting companies Proton VPN uses for their Dutch VPN servers). Needless to say, they are quite trusted when it comes to handling hosting with a high need of privacy and security. NFOrce Entertainment offers paid backups with recovery points. However, they don't use SSDs for their shared hosting packages. User reviews for NFOrce Entertainment are positive and can be found on Web Hosting Talk and Reddit.
Exoscale is based in Switzerland and has a nice DigitalOcean-like platform. It also has configurable firewall settings where you add the ports that you want to use into. Being based in Switzerland is great, as it is one of the best countries for online privacy. I can't find many user reviews about Exoscale, but CERN uses it. Exoscale embraces open source software, and at the moment, they have 217 repositories on GitHub. There's a nice, detailed guide for setting up a website with nginx and Let's Encrypt on Exoscale here. The data centers Exoscale rents are located in Geneva, Switzerland; Frankfurt, Germany; and Vienna, Austria.
I am currently using Exoscale for a school project and it has been great so far. The support staff answered within an hour when I submitted a support ticket early in the morning. I do, however, have some criticism. The payment options are credit/debit card and PayPal, but recurring payments via PayPal has not been enabled as a payment option, so unless you want to store your credit/debit card info with Exoscale's payment processor PostFinance so that Exoscale can automatically charge your credit/debit card, you're going to have to manually add funds to your account. This is a problem because Exoscale doesn't notify you before your account runs out of money. Instead, they send an email when your account is out of money and your VPS has been powered down. They give you 29 days to pay the bill before the VPS is deleted, so your data remains intact, at least. Something else that annoys me is that their prices don't include taxes, so a 5€ VPS costs 6,20€ in reality, for example. That said, I'm still a happy paying customer and I'd recommend Exoscale over other fancy DevOps cloud hosting platforms like DigitalOcean (which I tried two years ago) in a heartbeat. The biggest con is that Exoscale is slightly more expensive and offers less of a bang for the buck specs-wise than a lot of their bigger competitors, but if you just need a small VPS for a low traffic site, they're a solid choice.
There's also a similar Swiss VPS hosting company called cloudscale.ch, but they are a lot more expensive than Exoscale without offering anything that Exoscale does not already provide, as far as I can see. Cloudscale.ch also runs analytics in the form of a Matomo instance, which is as privacy friendly as you can get with analytics since Matomo is self-hosted and open source. However, as far as I can see, Exoscale don't use any analytics at all, which is even better.
Infomaniak is based in Switzerland and offers quite a lot of storage space for cheap. It is rated 4.52/5 based on 422 French user reviews on Top 10 Hébergeurs, 4.6/5 based on 226 user reviews on Facebook, and 4.69/5 based on 14 user reviews on SiteGeek. Infomaniak has had an uptime of 99.98% between September 2010 and March 2018, with 11 outages resulting in 611 minutes of downtime combined during that time period (and the longest outage being 407 minutes), according to Web Hosting Stuff. This is far above the industry standard of 99.94% uptime, and it's quite impressive. Since they are not bound by American laws, they do not take action on DMCA complaints, which in my opinion is a good thing, since the DMCA system is poorly designed and has gotten out of control. If anyone wants to take down content hosted by Infomaniak on copyright grounds, they have to go through the Swiss legal system, which, unlike its American counterpart, gives the site owner a fair chance to defend their site before any action is taken against it. Switzerland has the most lenient copyright laws in the western world, which shows by the number of large streaming and torrent sites hosted in Switzerland. If you're going to host a site that accepts user submitted content, I'd recommend looking into Infomaniak or another DMCA free hosting provider and save yourself the trouble that is DMCA. In addition to being in a great legal jurisdiction, they also have very good prices for great hardware specs, as Infomaniak is the largest hosting provider in Switzerland and operate its own data centers (three of them, to be specific). The data centers are located at undisclosed locations. Automatic daily backups are included for free.
TransIP is one of the largest hosting providers in the Netherlands, and likely the highest rated one as well, with a 8.9/10 score based on user 757 reviews on TrustPilot, a 94% score based on 729 Dutch user reviews on ISPGids.com, a 8.4/10 score based on 284 Dutch user reviews on HostingWijzer, a 4.3/5 score based on 180 Dutch user reviews on webhosters, a 4.6/5 score based on 68 Dutch user reviews on Hosting-reviews.nl, and a 4.7/5 score based on 49 English user reviews on Serchen. TransIP offers quite a lot of storage space and provides daily backups for free.
A Word About Offshore Jurisdictions
Note that even though the countries mentioned below have strong privacy laws, many of them still preform mass surveillance to some degree. Sadly, that seems to be the trend in the more industrialized countries. Of the countries mentioned, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Switzerland perform mass surveillance, and Finland is preparing a law that will the allow the Finnish government to do it.
Iceland is widely regarded to be the best country to host websites for those who value privacy and abhor censorship. The 2016 Data Center Risk Index rated Iceland 100/100, making it the safest country for data centers among the 37 countries they looked into. This is the country that told the FBI to leave Iceland when they came there to get Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The Pirate Party is Icelands third largest party and the party's leader is a former https://alternativeto.net/software/wikileaks/ member. That politician was in 2010 the chief sponsor of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, which set out to make Iceland a journalistic safe haven. The proposal was adopted unanimously by parliament and under that proposal the Icelandic government is now tasked with finding ways to strengthen freedom of speech and freedom of information, as well as provide strong protections for sources and whistleblowers. Another advantage with Iceland is that it's situated between North America and Europe, making it the optimal country if you want to provide fast loading times to both continents without using a CDN. Porn is technically illegal in Iceland since 1940 (though almost never enforced), so if you think that you or your users might upload content that might fall into that category, Iceland is not the place to host your website. So don't go and host the next big image hosting site in Iceland.
A Word About VPS vs Shared vs Dedicated Hosting
If you're planning to get a VPS and are new to VPS hosting, you should read these three posts that compare different virtualization types, since there is a significant difference. A TL;DR of those articles: https://alternativeto.net/software/openvz/ is the worst option security-wise and privacy-wise due to lack of separation between the OpenVZ containers and is also bad when it comes to preformance since it is very easy for VPS providers to oversell OpenVZ VPS'. Also, shared hosting is even worse when it comes to privacy, security, and preformance, for the same reason.
High preformance Linux VPS' today are generally powered by https://alternativeto.net/software/kvm-kernel-based-virtual-machine-/, which are much harder to oversell and VPS providers usually avoid doing that. https://alternativeto.net/software/xen/ is also used for high preformance VPS' on rare occasions, but KVM will give you better preformance.
The best option is of course a bare metal, dedicated server, but those are pretty expensive to get from the hosting providers on this list that offer it, the cheapest one being https://alternativeto.net/software/nforce-entertainment/ with dedicated servers starting at 40€ (~$45). However, a cheap KVM VPS should do the job nicely for most people.
If you want some suggestions on open source software alternatives to popular cloud services that you can host youself, check out the How to live without Google list.
Please also check out privacy friendly Tranquillity hosting from Sweden. Great with environmentally friendly electricity, privacy friendly with no logs and open source with published source code!
[Edited by alquimista, February 18]
I forgot about that one. Thanks for bringing it up, I've added it now. :)