ICANN’s assault on personal and small business privacy

TLDR

This post is extremely long and detailed and is on quite a dense subject. Here is the short version.

Trouble is brewing.

ICANN, the body that has a monopoly on domain registrations, is now planning to attempt to take over domain privacy providers (like RespectMyPrivacy) as well. Driven in no small part by the people who brought you SOPA, they have a three-step plan:

  1. They will introduce a new accreditation program for domain privacy providers, complete with fees and compliance headaches. (Meaning higher costs for you.)
  2. As a condition of accreditation, require domain privacy providers to adopt privacy-eviscerating policies that mandate disclosure and, in some cases, publication of your private information based on very low standards.
  3. They will require ICANN-accredited domain registrars (i.e. all domain registrars) to refuse to accept registrations that use a non-accredited domain privacy provider, thus driving any privacy provider that actually plans to provide privacy right out of business.
  4. Here are some of the great ideas they’re considering:

    • Barring privacy providers from requiring a court order, warrant, or subpoena before turning over your data.
    • A policy based on the “don’t ask questions, just do it” model of the DMCA. Except that with the DMCA your site can be put back after an error or bogus request; your privacy can never be put back.
    • Requiring privacy providers to honor law enforcement requests to turn information over secretly, even when under no legal obligation to do so.
    • Outright banning the use of privacy services for any domain for which any site in that domain involves e-commerce.

    If this happens, domain privacy will become little more than a fig leaf. Your private information will be available to anyone who can write a convincing-looking letter, and you may or may not be able to find out that it was disclosed.

    The whole proposal is a giant pile of BS that does nothing but service ICANN’s friends in governments and intellectual property (think RIAA/MPAA) at the expense of anyone who’s ever set up a web site and thought that maybe it would be good if their detractors didn’t have their home address. But as much as some at ICANN want to, they can’t just scrap privacy services. ICANN’s members are domain registrars and they make a lot of money from it. So this is the compromise: providers can still sell privacy, it just won’t actually do any good, and when they hand over your info, if they tell you about it at all, they’ll blame ICANN and say their hands are tied by the policies they have to follow.

    If you think maybe paying a lot more for a lot less privacy isn’t such a great idea, ICANN is accepting public comment on this subject until July 7th, 2015. You can email them at comments-ppsai-initial-05may15@icann.org or fill out their online template if you prefer.

    If you do feel like submitting a comment on this, I encourage you to read this whole post (and, if you have time, the working group report). The more informed you are, the more effective your comments will be.
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New payment features, methods, and options

We’ve added a number of new payment features and options to our site designed to make things better for our members. This includes a new deposit form that allows arbitrary deposit amounts, the ability to choose either a specific payment or a specific deposit amount and let our system work out the fees, support for Dwolla and Bitcoin as payment methods, and the option to set up your site to accept contributions from the general public toward its hosting costs.
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Upcoming updates, upgrades, and maintenance

We have accumulated some housekeeping tasks that we’ll be taking care of over the next couple of months. They’re all necessary things to make sure our service keeps running at its best, and though we work hard to prevent these types of things from impacting services, occasionally they do intrude. As a result, we want to let everyone know what we’re up to and what the effects will be.
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Domain registration updates

We have a few small updates to announce with respect to domain registration. There will be some small price changes, both up and down. We are also adding support for registering some of the new competitive gTLD’s. Finally, for those who choose our RespectMyPrivacy service, it will now be automatically prepaid (including the 10% prepayment discount) during all registrations and renewals.
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How-To: Django on NearlyFreeSpeech.NET

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More power, more control, more insight, less cost.

We’ve made some very big changes to the fundamental nature of our service. We now support persistent processes and delegating requests for your site to those processes using HTTP, SCGI, or FastCGI. We’ve added the ability to graph up to two weeks of your site’s resource usage. And we’ve slashed resource charges by almost 70%.
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Improving support and how we talk about it

Looking back, it’s hard to believe we’ve been using our new subscription-based support system for almost eight months. Wow, time flies. Overall, we’ve been very happy with this change. We really enjoy getting to spend time working with our members and helping them be successful with our service. The response from the people who’ve used it has also been almost uniformly very positive. So, right now, we feel like we finally got it right. Which isn’t to say that we can’t do even better.
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Automatic file server upgrades

As most of our members are aware, one of our older file servers, f5, has been causing intermittent problems. The time has come to move the sites still using it to newer, faster, more reliable equipment. The ability to do that manually has been available in our UI for about a week now, and it has not surprisingly been pretty popular. But after that server caused additional downtime this past week, we’re moving to the next phase: moving sites automatically.
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Software updates… update

We’ve released some software updates that bring new options for both PHP and CGI. PHP 5.5 is upgraded from beta to stable, a PHP 5.6 developer preview is available, and new stable-track and beta realms offer updated language versions and software tools for ssh and CGI usage.
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Post-mortem report of Saturday’s file server failure

On Saturday, March 29 at about 4pm US Eastern time, we rebooted one of our file servers that hosts content for member sites. It experienced a critical hardware failure and did not come back online. It took about 28 hours to get things back into service. We’re going to talk briefly about why that happened, and what we’ll be doing differently in the future.
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