Recently, a ‘”commotion” has broken out online, creating waves. Let’s bring you up to speed to the topic that’s created quite a stir online. A topic that affects many… small and large businesses and individuals including you and me… privacy. The stir was in response to the GNSO Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues (PPSAI) Working Group Initial Report. The report aims to bring privacy and proxy services, currently uncontrolled by ICANN, under ICANN’s contractual wing. You can read the entire report here.
The problematic area with the report, in simple terms is this: Your privacy provider would be forced to disclose your contact data in WHOis or give it to anyone who complains about your website, without due process.
Why was the report commissioned & why does anyone need Privacy Protection:
The report was drafted with the intention to tackle the issue of privacy protection abuse, however a few suggestions made by the report in fact, threatens the privacy of thousands of other users. Privacy protection becomes critical in countries where the media is repressed and the Internet is the only outlet. Anonymity for the sake of protecting of one’s own life is threatened if the user cannot use privacy services. And even in a situation that is not life threatening, a user may simply not want to disclose his contact details to avoid spam that may come his way.
What has been the response to the report:
In less than a week, a comment-driven campaign has hit ICANN with over 8,000 pro-privacy responses led by the biggest domain registrars including us. Reportedly, it is the largest volume of comments received by ICANN since protests against the domain extension .XXX by right-wing Christian activists in 2010.
What are the points of contention:
1) The first is the right bestowed on trademark & copyright owners to force registrars to disclose the details of the private registrant, irrespective of the size of the business or the nature of the website.
Privacy services will then have 15 days to obtain a response from a customer & then take a decision whether to reveal their contact information to the IP owner or not.
Is there an exception to this proposed policy? Not really.
The Privacy Protection Service provider cannot refuse to disclose the privacy citing the lack of:
- a court decree
- a subpoena
- a pending civil action or
- a UDRP or URS proceeding
- Nor refuse to disclose privacy because of alleged intellectual property infringement
2) The second problematic area crops up from the ambiguous “additional statements” on domains used for commercial activity proposed by MarkMonitor on behalf of Facebook and the like, appended to the report that states that it should be against the rules for anyone who transacts through their website to use privacy services/ WHOIS privacy.
No consensus was reached on the second point, though and it isn’t a formal recommendation in the report.
With sensitive information like this being threatened, the reaction online is strong.
What’s being done?
SaveDomainPrivacy.org is an initiative by dozens of registrars, small and big, including us, fighting for people who need privacy irrespective of whether they are engaged in e-commerce or not. Examples of abuse victims seeking donations, home-based businesses and political activists are cited.
The site urges visitors to send a comment to ICANN supporting:
- The legitimate use of privacy or proxy services to keep personal information confidential, protect physical safety, protection against spam and prevent identity theft
- The use of privacy services by all legally, regardless of whether the website is “commercial”
The public comment period on this report ends on July 7th.
If you want to be part of this movement, here’s your chance.
Is privacy an issue big enough to rewrite a policy? We’ll find out in a few days.
Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments section below.