New rules are being proposed about how to register online domains, and privacy advocates are worried.
Currently, when someone registers a website they are offered the choice of using a proxy registration service. These services act as middlemen so that people’s personal contact details aren’t readily available to the public.
But the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which overseas the bureaucratic process of naming online domains, is in the process of proposing new rules. One such proposed rule would make commercial websites not eligible to use proxy registration services.
This means that people registering websites for non-personal purposes would have to disclose their name, address, and phone number, which could be easily searchable by anyone.
Privacy advocates are none too thrilled about this. This amendment, wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a new blog post, means that website owner could “suffer a higher risk of harassment, intimidation and identity theft.”
The question at hand is: What is considered commercial? While it’s easy to differentiate between huge commercial websites and small personal pages, in some areas it’s not so clear-cut. For instance, if a smaller website is taking ad revenue does that necessarily make it commercial? Even if it’s just one person posting their own posts?
ICANN is currently taking comments about this proposal. One commenter wrote:
I don’t want others to know where I live, work, etc. I have several personal websites, and no business front. If someone really needs to make a complaint let them follow the directions on the privacy, and the registrar can forward the information on to the owner. If authorities need to contact the owner then let them provide a warrant to the registrar to contact the owner.
I run a number of sites that allow me to earn a full-time living online. I help and instruct others on how to succeed online (for free). Unfortunately, despite my generosity, I have been stalked, harassed, and have had the content of my sites stolen. I have turned to using private WHOIS data to prevent unscrupulous internet users from finding my sites, home address, and phone number. Removing this privacy will only serve to put my home, life, and loved ones’ lives and safety in danger.
Following this comment period, ICANN says it will prepare a final report.