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Submission to GNSO Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group

My submission today to the ICANN forum addressing the GNSO Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group Initial Report:

While I can’t understand why some businesses hide their contact information — it seems counter-intuitive — I emphatically support the legitimate use of WHOIS privacy and proxy services.

To state my bias up front, I am the registrant of 120 domains for business and personal use. None of my 44 business domains are protected by a privacy or proxy service. Of the remaining 76 domains, 8 (11%) use a privacy or proxy service. I’m not doing anything illegal with those 8 domains (you’ll have to trust me on that), but it’s controversial enough with some people that I wish to make it that much more difficult for those people to identify and/or find me. If the cops need to find me for any reason — which they don’t — including related to my domain registrations, it would take them all of five minutes with their legal powers (and, ironically, finding me probably wouldn’t even involve using WHOIS!), and that is sufficient for the greater good of society.

In my mind “legitimate use” of WHOIS privacy and proxy services includes hiding from people who would like to make it easier to track down people they disagree with (including using some legal pretext to do so), which includes even people with a legitimate reason to want that information. If someone with a legitimate intellectual property interest in the content of a particular website is motivated enough to contact the owner of that website, then they should be prepared to do some work to do so.

It should not be any easier to track down the owner of a domain than it is to track down the owner of a phone number or vehicle licence plate — which is not easy in my part of the world — if the domain owner does not want to be found by casual curiosity, even the professional curiosity of lawyers.

While I give ICANN lukewarm support for verifying WHOIS information provided by domain registrants (it might as well be accurate), the fact is that the WHOIS database is more useful for spammers than it is for any legitimate use. For that reason it is a far more negative effort than it is positive, and any effort to restrict the use of privacy and proxy services only makes the public perception of the WHOIS even more negative.

Archived on ICANN website.

Update, 13 August 2015: Removed the link to my submission on the ICANN website, as the URL keeps changing.

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