Exposing the Whois Data by ICANN can place user’s privacy in jeopardy

ICANN is planning to scrap proxy registration policy and give out the Whois Data of all the commercial domains.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non profit organization with the main aim to manage Internet protocol numbers and Domain Name System (DNS) root, is in news lately.

What is Whois Data and Proxy registration scheme for Domain owners :

As per the rules of the global domain name authority, ICANN, providing the contact information is a must for all the domains during its registration. However, ICANN has a provision of Proxy Registration Scheme which helps user to keep their actual details private by paying some charges and the organization maintains a Whois Data to keep the privacy of the domain’s user intact.

In case, if someone wants to know the details, such as physical address or telephone number, of the domain’s owner then they need to apply for a court order or subpoena which will then compel the owner of the domain to disclose their details to them.

However, this proxy registration policy might be scrapped forever by ICANN. As per a proposal dated May 5th 2015, ICANN tweaks its Privacy and Proxy services for those domains which are being used for commercial purposes. The domains which run advertisements have been categorized as “commercial domains” under ICANN. As per ICANN domains can use “ads and donations to cover the site’s expenses”, however the domain owner will have to give up their privacy if they wish to run ads on their domain.

ICANN has already received thousands of responses from owners of various domains who feel that exposing their Whois Data might actually place the user’s privacy in jeopardy.

A message received from one domain owner read:

“I’m a single female and live alone. I don’t want my personal address available to every pervert/troll/angered citizen that wants it after visiting my small website. Seemingly innocent topics, like vegan cooking, can spark outrage in certain individuals.”

As per reports from EFF, the U.S. entertainment companies are actually forcing the US Congress to bring about this drastic change in the proxy privacy scheme for domain registration and is seems these companies have urged the US Congress to allow for the proxy registrations only under “limited circumstances” as they hate online anonymous people. Steve Metalitz, under the cover of “Coalition for Online Accountability” has presented the proposal to Congress. The coalition is made up of the copyright extremists such as MPAA, RIAA, ESA and SIIA

Basically, the entertainment and other companies just want to criticize and charge the website owners of copyright and trademark infringement preferably without involving any legal procedures and hence they are searching for new tools and loopholes in the Domain name rules. Actually, the companies can follow the legal procedure and “subpoenas for discovery of the identities of website owners” which is currently being issued on a regular basis.

The report further states that this change in revealing the details of the website owners might produce great risks to the owners who might suffer higher risks of harassment, threats, identity thefts and even receive a lot of spam emails.

Anonymity helps people to speak boldly and give out their opinions without any fear of being harmed, thus protecting them. Anonymity also is a must for the whistle blowers who are known to expose crime, corruption and politicians. This is the major reason as to why EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is against the new proposal and wants ICANN to roll back to its earlier policy of protecting the Whois Data and anonymity.

EFF is a non profit organization that defends the civil liberties in the digital world for the past 25 years.

On the other hand, EasyDNS, informed the domain users last month regarding the ICANN’s new Whois Accuracy Program (WAP). EasyDNS explained that it regretted renewing the ICANN accreditation and also revealed that this new policy is just a means to force the domain owners to own their domains at the cost of losing their privacy. As per WAP, if domain users renew their domain or make any changes to their domain then the owners need to ‘verify’ their Whois Data. ICANN would be sending an email, which resembles a “phishing email” and if this is ignored then within 15 days the domain registration would be suspended. The WAP has come into effect since June 23rd. EasyDNS mentioned:

“You can thank ICANN for this policy, because if it were up to us, and you tasked us with coming up with the most idiotic, damaging, phish-friendly, disaster prone policy that accomplishes less than nothing and is utterly pointless, I question whether we would have been able to pull it off at this level. We’re simply out of our league here.”

If owners of domain and users want to protect their privacy then the can express their views to ICANN by sending their comments via email to [email protected]

Various companies and concerned individuals have come together and formed a website that supports the petition to save their privacy. You can support this petition by clicking this link at SaveDomainPrivacy.

Namecheap, an ICANN-accredited domain registrar has put up a website which states, ‘respect our privacy and don’t expose Whois data’ can be connected via RespectOurPrivacy. The proposal was put together by MarkMonitor and the main page mentions:

Under new guidelines proposed by MarkMonitor and others who represent the same industries that backed SOPA, domain holders with sites associated to “commercial activity” will no longer be able to protect their private information with WHOIS protection services. “Commercial activity” casts a wide net, which means that a vast number of domain holders will be affected. Your privacy provider could be forced to publish your contact data in WHOIS or even give it out to anyone who complains about your website, without due process. Why should a small business owner have to publicize her home address just to have a website?

We think your privacy should be protected, regardless of whether your website is personal or commercial, and your confidential info should not be revealed without due process. If you agree, it’s time to tell ICANN.

Users protesting ICANN, need to provide their email address and phone number and a representative will get in touch and guide the user further.

ICANN should stand strong in the favor of an open internet supporting the privacy policy and should not give up to these kind of forceful programs which encourages having a domain name at the cost of losing the privacy.

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Maya Kamath
Maya Kamathhttps://www.techworm.net/
Content writer with unending love to pen down my thoughts and views regarding the new technological inventions as well as probe into the current affairs. Feel as if i am free bird who can actually live life at my pace.


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