Your first question probably is: What is a Privacy and Proxy services and how does it affect me? To answer that we must first answer what is Whois? The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (known as ICANN) regulates registrars. Whenever someone registers a domain (gTLD) though an ICANN accredited reseller or registrar, they are required to post their contact information on the Whois database (non-centralized) which is publicly accessible.
Recently the use of Privacy and Proxy services has become more prevalent. These services will offer to register the domain on your behalf and list themselves as the registered name holder, basically hiding all of your contact information and displaying theirs instead. The idea of the service is that even though your information is hidden, all contact sent to the email address listed will still reach you without you having to expose your email, phone number, address etc.
At ICANN 45 in Toronto, a conference that is held around 3 times a year in various geographical locations, the discussion of developing an accreditation program for these proxies has been raised. But why you ask? While there are many Proxy services that follow the “rules” and abide by “best practices” such as Domains by Proxy owned by Go Daddy, there are others who some claim abuse the service and do not follow these “best practices”. Such cases include: not forwarding emails to the actual domain owner, not responding to complaint requests from trademark, copyright and phishing/malware claims and in extreme cases protecting identities while ignoring requests from law enforcement for information on possible criminal activities on a specific domain. Also, the idea that any website that will be selling a product directly to a consumer should not be able to even apply for a Proxy/Privacy service in the first place has been raised.
Who are the players?
On one side we have law enforcement, some trademark and copyright attorneys, as well as trademark and copyright owners who feel that these proxies are abusing their services and hindering the process of legitimate claims for information to contact the domain owner and need to become accredited services and follow certain “good practices”. On the other side we have some who believe that ICANN is over stepping their boundaries and does not have the authority to impose regulations and or accreditation of these services and beyond that does not have the ability to implement such changes.
How does this affect you?
On the consumer side when you purchase a domain you may not want people to know your address and/or phone number etc. as privacy and identity theft issues may come into play. While online consumers who would like to either verify or file a complaint against a domain may not be able to find accurate contact information due to the privacy/proxy service in play. Trademark/Copyright owners as well as potential phishing targets such as banks also have concerns as getting in contact with certain proxy services to determine who the infringer is can be time consuming, costly and ultimately fruitless if the proxy is non-responsive.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or make any direct representation of BrandProtect or the parties mentioned within.
Do you frequently use WhoIs to find out who’s behind a domain? Are you concerned about the upcoming changes to Privacy and Proxy services?