End of online anonymity for commercial websites?

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Anonymity online may come to an end, as ICANN – the agency coordinating the Internet’s infrastructure, has suggested that any commercial website to become ineligible for proxy registrations.

Many domain registration services (GoDaddy, NameCheap) allow to keep sensitive data (such as contact details) private, by providing their own contact details for Whois queries, which are the directory look-ups for web addresses.

Now, ICANN wants that to come to an end, according to ExtraTorrent.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation  (EFF) criticized a plan to end anonymity for website owners, as it believes such move may put users at risk of harassment and identity theft.

Privacy advocates are arguing that the risks to website owners to suffer from harassment, intimidation and identity theft outweigh any benefits that the new restrictions may have.

The EFF claims that the option of anonymous speech protects people with unpopular opinions, who in this case don’t fear harm. Anonymity also protects whistleblowers exposing crime and corruption.

This is while ICANN’s proposal is backed by the American entertainment industry.

This is not surprising, as the content industry has long been critical of anonymity online, claiming that many domain registrations “lurk in the shadows of the public Whois, via an unregulated proxy registration system that is the antithesis of transparency”.

The entertainment industry calls to bring domain registrations into the sunlight, pointing out that although there’s a legitimate role for proxy registrations in some cases, the current system can be manipulated to make it impossible to identify people responsible for abusive domain name registrations.

The proposal is backed by 6 copyright industry agencies that represent the music, gaming, software and movie industries, as well as Time Warner and Disney.

Responding to the threat, providers such as GoDaddy and NameCheap started campaigns urging their customers to stand up for their own privacy. NameCheap for example says privacy of its customers should be protected, regardless of whether their websites are commercial or not.

If you are willing to stand up for your online privacy, visit the two websites below and let your voice be heard:

RespectOurPrivacy.com
SaveDomainPrivacy.org

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