The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is considering changing a policy involving WHOIS, a database of personal information for those who register domain names.
Currently, domain owners can choose to use a privacy service to protect their personal information. So, instead of your name, address, and other contact information appearing on the domain registration, the proxy’s information will appear instead.
ICANN estimates that about 20 percent of domains currently on the Internet use privacy or proxy services to protect their information. They can be especially relevant for home-based entrepreneurs who don’t want their home addresses or other contact information made available to the public.
Jennifer Gore Standiford, policy director for Web.com, said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “What these privacy services do is provide a proxy, so your personal information doesn’t have to be made publicly available. It’s kind of like when people had unlisted phone numbers back when you had the White Pages delivered to your home.”
But now, ICANN is considering doing away with these privacy services altogether. The reason behind these proposed changes is to make it easier for those dealing with legal or infringement issues to contact the offending party.
However, registrars like Web.com have processes in place for those who want to retrieve contact information for the owners of domains protected by privacy services. The process involves getting a court order.
For example, if a website is infringing on another brand, they could file a court order so that they could access the information and contact the site owner.
By doing away with this process and the privacy services that help to protect people’s personal information, Gore Standiford says that individuals and businesses of all sizes could see adverse effects.
For example, a business that wants to launch a new product line and registers the domain(s) for said line might not be able to keep the news quiet up until launch. If competitors notice the new domains and are able to determine that the site was registered by the business, they could leak that information or use it to develop a similar product before yours is even released.
Or, if you run a home-based business like a parenting blog, you would likely have to register the domain with your home address and contact information. And that information would be available to anyone who can access WHOIS.
If you fall into one of those categories or another where you might value domain privacy, you can take action to stop the proposed changes. Save Domain Privacy is collecting signatures for a petition to stop the elimination of privacy services.
There’s also a public comment period currently taking place, where anyone can submit comments about the proposal to ICANN. Comments close on July 7.