March 30, 2004

Network Solutions' Legal Liability for Domain Info Masking?

Greetings. Network Solutions (and other registrars in various ways) have begun offering services to bypass ICANN's requirement for accurate domain holder information being listed in WHOIS.

While the issues of WHOIS information accuracy and availability vs. privacy are complex and controversial, NetSol's particular approach appears to trigger a number of interesting legal questions.

For an extra charge, NetSol will mask the contact e-mail address with an aliased address that changes at intervals, list their own po box for the physical address, and list a phone number that leads to a "no calls accepted" recording.

I do not see an obvious problem with their e-mail alias approach. However, their intercepting and opening of physical mail is a different matter, since it makes it impossible for senders of certified mail to be assured that the material ever reached the actual registrant, and of course the privacy of such mailings is lost. If confidential legal materials were involved, the issues could get very dicey.

Lack of an accurate phone number is also of great concern. In cases of network disruptions (either intentional or not) often the only recourse to restore normal services is to pick up the phone and call the person at the domain in question. Physical mail is too slow, and if systems are disrupted e-mail often won't work.

One also must wonder if NetSol really wants to interject themselves into the middle of legal and related communications involving spammers, pornographers, and others with less than pristine motives for wanting to hide their contact info -- the "John Smith" family who wants to protect their home address is not the major issue.

Finally, what actions will ICANN take to enforce both the letter and spirit of their rules in this regard, while these issues are being hashed out in various policy forums?


Posted by Lauren at March 30, 2004 09:35 AM | Permalink
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