Namecheap has teamed up with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Fight for the Future to launch RespectOurPrivacy.com, a website that informs people about a potential policy change to the Whois database that ICANN is considering. A Whois change could eliminate domain privacy and proxy services for domain name registrations, and that could have a serious repercussions for many domain owners and business owners.
When you visit the RespectOurPrivacy.com website, you are given information about how you can “let ICANN know that you object to any release of personal information without a court order.” Visitors are able to submit comments directly to ICANN via the website, and I was told more than 5,000 comments were already submitted to ICANN over the weekend, and over 360 voicemails were left.
According to the website, here is the issue at hand:
“Under new guidelines proposed by MarkMonitor and others 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. “Commercial activity” casts a wide net, which means that a vast number of domain holders will be affected. Your privacy provider could be forced to publish your contact data in WHOIS or even 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?”
This is not the first time Namecheap has taken an activist role in Internet governance issues. The company was also behind the NetNeutrality.com website, and the company was actively involved in opposing SOPA.
Commenting on this issue to me, Namecheap CEO Richard Kirkendall said, “privacy and due process are both cornerstones that are central to a free and democratic society. We Must do everything we can to protect both. The only people that will be affected here are the innocent as any wrongdoer will simply use false contact information so this will have little to no effect and harm innocent people with a right to privacy in the process.”
The issue of Whois privacy surely impacts many domain investors who prefer to keep their contact details private. For those who wish to contact ICANN to express their concerns about this policy change, the close date for comments is July 7, 2015.