ICANN’s assault on personal and small business privacy


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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