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ICANN Opens GNSO Whois Study on Privacy/Proxy Abuse for Comment

Kiran Malancharuvil

ICANN has opened the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Whois study on privacy/proxy abuse for public comment. Performed by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), this study is one of many commissioned by the GNSO to examine the current, disparate, and often maligned registration directory service, and aims to measure the hypothesis that "a significant percentage of the domain names used to conduct illegal or harmful Internet activities are registered via privacy and proxy services to obscure the perpetrator's identity."

According to ICANN Senior Policy Director Mary Wong, who published a preview of the study last week (ICANN Blog: Results of the GNSO Whois Privacy/Proxy Abuse Study), the preliminary findings support the hypothesis by demonstrating a "significant, above-average rate of privacy/proxy use for domains engaged in illegal or harmful online activities" such as online sales of counterfeit goods, unsolicited commercial bulk email, cybersquatting, phishing and more.

Some of the initial NPL findings are:

  • More than half of sampled unlicensed pharmacies used privacy/proxy services to register their domain name, in contrast to less than 10% of licensed pharmacies.
  • Almost half of sampled advanced fee fraud cases used privacy/proxy services to register their domain name.
  • 83% – 93% of domains engaged in harmful or illegal activities could be reached by the Whois provided contact information when privacy and proxy services were not used.

MarkMonitor and our clients have long championed the accreditation and restriction of privacy and proxy services, to ensure that only those individuals and organizations with legitimate, non-commercial reasons to shield their identify online can do so. However, as evidenced by the study, those engaged in illegal and harmful activity online can hide behind fake or incomplete Whois information just as easily as they can hide behind privacy and proxy services. Accreditation and overhaul of the privacy/proxy system is just one step toward a much needed overhaul of Whois.

This study, which supports our belief that privacy and proxy services are being abused by cybersquatters and other wrongdoers on the Internet in order to escape detection and consequence, is especially important and timely. The ICANN Community is considering the initial recommendations of the Expert Working Group on New gTLD Directory Services (EWG), which has been tasked with fixing the current, broken system and/or replacing the Whois system entirely. MarkMonitor comments on the initial recommendations of the EWG can be found here.

By Kiran Malancharuvil, Internet Policy Counselor at MarkMonitor

Related topics: Cybersquatting, Domain Names, ICANN, Policy & Regulation, Whois

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Comments

Simply the wrong way to use the data Elliot Noss  –  Oct 01, 2013 1:48 PM PDT

The proper question should be what % of privacy-protected names engaged in bad acts?

Sadly it seems like another staff study intended to support a predetermined outcome.

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