Directing the PC lynch mob to your house…ICANN consults on proposal to end website owners privacy via proxy registration

Posted: 25 June, 2015 in Internet
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ICANN logo TGStorytime is a free community website for transgender authors, operated by Joe Six-Pack, himself a transgender author and publisher. If you look up the registration details of Joe’s domain tgstorytime.com using the WHOIS application, you only see the contact details of a proxy.If anyone really needs to know Joe’s physical address or telephone number, they can apply for a court order or subpoena requiring his privacy service to disclose them.

At least, that is how it works now. But under a proposal currently being considered by ICANN, that may all change. It is proposed that domains used for commercial purposes might no longer be eligible to use proxy registration services. Is TG Storytime used for commercial purposes? Well, Joe currently covers the site’s expenses, but also notes that ads and donations may be used in the future to cover costs , and sites that run ads have been judged as commercial in domain name disputes. If a similar broad definition is adopted by ICANN, Joe might well be forced to give up his privacy if he begins to run ads on his site.

Joe is far from alone. Thousands of responses have already been received by ICANN on this topic from others who are concerned about how the proposed policy change will affect them. Amongst them is a message from one user who wrote:

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.

This change is being pushed by US entertainment companies, who told Congress in March that privacy for domain registration should be allowed only in limited circumstances. These and other companies want new tools to discover the identities of website owners whom they want to accuse of copyright and trademark infringement, preferably without a court order.

The limited value of this change is manifestly outweighed by the risks to website owners who will suffer a higher risk of harassment, intimidation and identity theft. The ability to speak anonymously protects people with unpopular or marginalized opinions, allowing them to speak and be heard without fear of harm. It also protects whistleblowers who expose crime, waste, and corruption. That’s why EFF opposes the new proposal to roll back anonymity.

Sign the petition from savedomainprivacy.org .org

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