Hey, just a question for you guys out there. Don’t know how many of you are with a hosting outfit rather than running your own server (be it at home, work, or at a colocation), but I have a bit of an issue here when I reported a problem with my web hosting outfit’s exim configuration.

In every trouble ticket I’ve submitted, I’ve done my due diligence in trying to figure out the problem, provide as much relevant information as possible, and often suggest a fix for the problem. More often than not I have to go through the same thing 2-3 times because they come back with canned/stock answers and seem to be largely less clueful than the grocery store clerk.

However, with this wordpress issue from the last post, and having to change my configuration and patch a non-configuration file, the problem is clearly with the hoster and their exim configuration (not allowing locally-generated mail to “relay” via the server). The problem is that it isn’t really a relay if it’s coming from the local host. So what if my MX record points to a different server. That’s not unheard of at all. So the issue is clearly that exim is doing MX lookups and deciding that the from domain isn’t local, so it must be a relay. That’s fine, provided that it’s not doing the check on locally-generated mail.

Anyways, that’s not the big issue. The response I got from the technical support team told me that some configuration options were not correct in wordpress and that I should check those fields, correct them, and possibly check some others.

Turns out, those fields have nothing to do with the problem (they belong to wordpress’ ability to check for new posts via a POP3 account). But this individual obviously went snooping through my MySQL database to figure that out. And he also clearly doesn’t know wordpress that well, otherwise he wouldn’t have made the idiotic suggestion in the first place.

So… do you think web hosting outfits like this have the right to go looking through files and databases as they please? He never asked if he could look at the database or anything else. He took it upon himself to go poking wherever he pleased. Now, I know when I was doing hosting at the colo that I would never look at a client’s files or databases. The only exception I would make was if there was a suspicion of them doing something that violated the terms of service (i.e. hosting illegal files, etc.). Otherwise, their stuff is their stuff and I have no more right to it than looking at their email or even their snail mail.

I’ve never experienced this before and, frankly, it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know if this is “standard practice” for these guys, or if this is an industry thing, and I certainly don’t recall reading in their terms of service that they granted themselves the right to poke through my files/data as they pleased. But maybe this is something that they’re allowed to do? It is their hardware, after all. But then again, I should have some reasonable expectations of privacy — to some degree — right?

I don’t want to go through the hassle of switching hosting providers if the next outfit I go to will pull the same thing, which is why I’m wondering if anyone has experienced anything like this before.

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