(NaturalNews) The non-profit organization responsible for managing domain names online is proposing new privacy guidelines that suggest an imminent resurrection of the ill-reputed “Stop Online Privacy Act,” or SOPA. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is pushing for sweeping changes to how domain holders’ private information is handled that would make it virtually impossible for domain holders to maintain their privacy online if enacted.
As it currently stands, an individual or company that purchases a website domain can opt for WHOIS privacy, which ensures that the general public won’t be able to identify the owner’s address or personal information. However, ICANN is attempting to eliminate this privacy option for domain holders who engage in so-called “commercial activity,” a vague designation that could theoretically be applied to anyone who owns a website.
The entire WHOIS protection process stands to be completely decimated by this change, making it easier than ever for website owners to be targeted by spammers. Owners of “controversial” websites would also face potential threats or harassment from opposing groups or even the government for publishing content deemed “politically incorrect.”
With all the recent hysteria over the Confederate battle flag, for example, websites that choose to exercise their right to sell Confederate flag memorabilia and merchandise in anonymity for their own protection would presumably no longer be able to do so. Hostile groups demanding that this major piece of American history be scrubbed from the web entirely would essentially have a much easier time harassing or threatening domain holders who choose to display or sell materials associated with the Confederacy.
“Under new guidelines proposed by MarkMonitor and other organizations who represent the same industries that backed SOPA, domain holders with sites associated to ‘commercial activity’ will no longer be able to protect their private information with WHOIS protection services,” warns RespectOurPrivacy.com about this covert attempt to eliminate online privacy rights.
“‘Commercial activity’ casts a wide net, which means a vast number of domain holders will be affected. Your privacy provider could be forced to publish your contact data in WHOIS or give it out to anyone who complains about your website, without due process. Why should a small business owner have to publicize her home address just to have a website?”
Tell ICANN that you won’t stand for unconstitutional violations of online privacy rights
One of the major offending tenets of the ICANN scheme is that website owners’ private data could be released without a proper court order and without due process. This is unconstitutional, plain and simple, and it represents a significant departure from existing statutory law that protects one’s personal information from being exploited or used for malicious purposes.
ICANN’s intent with such a move appears to be to silence domain holders who present what some might see as “controversial” content online. This includes news websites that expose government corruption, for example, or those that stand in opposition to police state tyranny. It would also presumably target websites that foster free speech in opposition to the status quo.
Every freedom-loving netizen is threatened by ICANN’s proposed new rules, which is why we need to band together and tell this group that we won’t stand for any further erosion of our online privacy rights. RespectOurPrivacy.com has created a simple contact form that you can use to tell ICANN to respect our online privacy by not exposing private WHOIS data at https://www.respectourprivacy.com.
“Some IP rightsholders and law enforcement authorities would like to use ICANN to shortcut the due process of law and other domestic legal safeguards,” warns Jeremy Malcolm, Senior Global Policy Analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “The weakening of WHOIS privacy services is an example of this, and that’s why we’re speaking up to defend the privacy of domain owners.”
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Written by Jonathan Benson
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