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Submission to GNSO Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group

  • To: comments-ppsai-initial-05may15@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Submission to GNSO Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group
  • From: Craig Hartnett <craig@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 03 Jul 2015 21:23:27 -0700

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

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