Risks of Operating a Proxy
When you run a Web proxy or application proxy on your computer to help others, requests and connections forwarded through that proxy will appear to originate from your computer. Your computer is acting on behalf of other Internet users, so their activity could be attributed to you, as if you had done it yourself. So if someone uses the proxy to send or receive material that a third party objects to, you could receive complaints that assume that you are responsible and may ask you to stop that activity. In some cases, activities using your proxy could attract legal action or the attention of law enforcement agencies in your own or another country.
In some countries, proxy operators have received legal complaints, and, in some cases, law enforcement agents have even seized computers that were functioning as proxies. This could happen for several reasons:
- Someone may (incorrectly) assume that the operator of the proxy computer was personally involved in activity passing through the proxy.
- Someone may assert that the operator of the proxy has a legal duty to stop certain uses, even if the uses are being made by third parties.
- Someone may hope to examine the proxy to find evidence (e.g. logfiles) of who was responsible for some activity.
If you think this could be a risk for your proxy in your area, it may be safer to operate the proxy on a dedicated computer in a data center. That way it won't attract attention to your home Internet connection.
National laws may vary in the way and extent they protect proxy operators from liability. For details about your situation, you should consult a lawyer or qualified legal expert in your jurisdiction.
Risks of operating a public proxy
Internet service providers may complain about your operation of a proxy, especially if they receive complaints about abuse of the proxy. Some ISPs may assert that running a public proxy violates their terms of service, or that they simply do not wish to permit users to run public proxies. These ISPs may disconnect you or threaten to disconnect you in the future.
A public proxy may be used by many people all over the world and may use huge amounts of bandwidth and traffic, so when using ISPs that charge on a non-flat-rate tariff, one should take precautions to avoid a large traffic bill at the end of the month.
Risks of operating a private proxy
These risks still exist if you operate a proxy for your own benefit or for the use of a small number of individuals, but operating a non-public proxy is much less risky than operating a public proxy.
If the user of your non-public proxy is detected and monitored, whoever is doing the monitoring may realize or speculate that there is a connection between you and the user and that you are trying to help that person circumvent filtering.
Although your own ISP is much more likely to object to your running a public proxy than a private proxy, some ISPs may have such comprehensive anti-proxy policies that they object even to the operation of a private proxy on their networks.
Data retention laws might regulate proxy operation
In some countries, data retention laws or similar laws meant to restrict anonymity might be interpreted to regulate the operation of proxy services. For more information about data retention, see https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Telecommunications_data_retention.