Row intensifies over ICANN plan to end website-owner privacy

Public comment period draws to close; debate still rages over proposal to prohibit proxy shield

Tags: Facebook IncorporationGoogle IncorporatedInternet Corporation for Assigned Names and NumbersPrivacyUSA
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Row intensifies over ICANN plan to end website-owner privacy If enacted, the rules would prohibit commercial websites from using proxy-services to hide their identities.
By  Stephen McBride Published  July 8, 2015

A row is reaching fever-pitch over a proposal to publicise the home addresses of domain name owners, online media reported.

The plan was introduced by the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit organisation that administrates the world's Internet domains and IP system and today enters the final day of a public comment period. If enacted, the rules would prohibit commercial websites from using proxy-services to hide their identities.

Under the current system, any domain name owner has the option to use a third-party provider to host their website. Anyone executing a look-up search, such as that offered by Whois, will see the name and address of the third party instead of the owner.

Supporters of the ICANN-proposed amendment, which include Facebook, argue that the current option of anonymity invites abuse and is commonly used by criminals. Opponents of the scheme include Google, which believes large organisations will use shell companies to hide their identity.

Other voices of dissent highlight that criminals routinely mask their identities by giving fake details when they register domains.

Opponents also argue that the proposed rule would subject individuals and groups to harassment and that law enforcement can always find out the owner of a domain through court proceedings.

One key point of friction between the two sides is the question of what constitutes a "commercial" website. ICANN believes it is those that solicit money, but detractors point out that this would include any non-profit that asked for donations on their sites.

Public comments now number of 11,000 and most are against the change, based largely on privacy concerns.

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