ICANN wants to ban domain privacy for commercial sites

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ICANN is considering a move that would make private domain registration a thing of the past for all commercial sites. This means that users would no longer be able to use a service such as “Domains by Proxy” in order to hide their true identity from anyone who does a WHOIS lookup.

This potential change would have far reaching consequences for many types of sites, especially those who would prefer their identity, including address and phone number, remained private.

Not surprisingly, it is reportedly the entertainment industry that is pushing for this change. They want it to be easier to discover the identities of those behind sites that are hosting content without permission, so they can contact them or take legal action. Currently, when a site is hidden behind domain privacy, companies need to go to court and get a subpoena, in order for those companies to provide this contact information.

It also puts at risk domains that companies might register pre-launch for either a new product or a new company completely.

However, it goes further than simply outting those who participate in copyright infringement. It could put in peril victims who host support sites that accept donations, those who post unpopular opinions either in their own countries or outside of it, and those who simply want to raise awareness of the activities of others, such as activists or whistleblowers. And there are plenty of people who have sites and blogs on all kinds of random topics but would feel completely uncomfortable with their home address publicly available for anyone to see.

It also puts at risk domains that companies might register pre-launch for either a new product or a new company completely. And it could out companies that are proactive and register variations of brandsucks.com domain names.

And some web designers and hosting companies will still register domain names on their client’s behalf (for many reasons, some legitimate, some not-so-much), this could affect these domains too, if the company’s ownership isn’t on the domain registration information.

And for those who create a network of sites, such as for a Private Blog Network (PBN), it could mean that both competitors and search engines could have a much easier time unraveling the linked sites. While fake names are a possibility, there is always the risk of being reported and losing the domain with false registration information.