The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, better known as ICANN, is considering a proposal (PDF) that would restrict the use of proxy registration services typically used to mask a domain owner’s information.
As it currently stands, ICANN, which serves as the regulatory body for domain names, mandates that all domains registered on the Internet have a public record of ownership on file and accessible via Whois. Domain owners that wish to remain anonymous can use a privacy registration service that populates the required record with its own contact information.
Registrant Name: Registration Private
Registrant Organization: Domains By Proxy, LLC
Registrant Street: DomainsByProxy.com
Registrant Street: 14747 N Northsight Blvd Suite 111, PMB 309
Registrant City: Scottsdale
Registrant State/Province: Arizona
Registrant Postal Code: 85260
Registrant Country: United States
Registrant Phone: +1.4806242599
It’s a workaround that technically adheres to ICANN’s rules and keeps the identity of the domain owner hidden although valid information can still be gathered via court order or subpoena.
Specifically, the proposal would prohibit the private registration of domains associated with commercial activities and those that are used for online financial transactions. It’s being heavily pushed by the entertainment industry as a way to make it easier to identify and go after copyright and trademark infringers.
Much of the controversy surrounding the proposal has to do with defining the phrase “commercial activities.” As the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, sites that run advertising – even something as basic as Google AdSense – have been classified as commercial in domain name disputes.
There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to keep their identity hidden. Those operating controversial websites with polarizing or unpopular opinions would be easy targets for stalkers, trolls and bullies. What’s more, whistleblowers responsible for exposing corruption or crime may find themselves on the end of physical violence if their names got out.
Privacy advocates, anti-harassment advocates and even domain registration companies have all spoken out against the proposal. If you want your opinion on the matter to be heard, you can fire off an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org between now and July 7.