A new ICANN proposal currently under review suggests various changes to how WHOIS protection services should operate.
The changes are welcomed by copyright holders, as they will make it easier to identify the operators of pirate sites, who can then be held responsible.
However, several domain registrars, digital rights groups and the public at large are less enthusiastic. They fear that the changes will also prevent many legitimate website owners from using private domain registrations.
To allow the various parties to weigh in ICANN launched a public consultation, and the overwhelming number of responses over the past several weeks show that domain name privacy is a topic that many people have taken to heart.
At the time of writing ICANN has received well over 11,000 comments, most of which encourage the organization to keep private domain registrations available.
A few dozen comments have been filed by special interest groups, but most were submitted by ordinary Internet users who fear that they will have to put their name, address and other personal details out in public.
Countering the “piracy” argument, several people note that the changes would do very little to stop people from running illegal websites, as WHOIS data can easily be faked.
“The truth is, if the website is an illegal website, then the information in the Whois is not going to be legit anyway. So you are not helping anything when it comes to tracking down crime. You are only helping crime by providing the criminals with more information. On people that are being legal,” one commenter notes.
Others warn that the proposals will leave the door open for all sorts of harassment, or even aid oppressive regimes and terrorist groups including ISIS.
“Please do not make it easier for these oppressive regimes and terrorists to identify and target the brave men and women who risk their lives by writing and blogging about what goes on in those dangerous parts of the world,” a commenter writes.
In large part however, the massive protests are fueled by the “Respect Our Privacy” campaign site which was launched by the EFF, Namecheap and Fight for the Future. This site allows people to submit a pre-written letter in just a few clicks, which results in thousands of duplicate comments.
The MPAA previously criticized the form letters noting that they are triggered by “hype and misinformation sponsored by certain registrars and advocacy groups,” while accusing the campaign site of spreading “completely false” information.
It will be interesting to see how the public consultation will influence ICANN’s proposal and the future operation of domain name privacy services.
The commenting period closes this coming Tuesday and will be followed by an official report. After that, the ICANN board will still have to vote on whether or not the changes will be implemented.