Preserve Anonymity, Stand Up For Domain Privacy

Online privacy is being threatened. Corporate interests are pushing for policies to unmask anonymous owners of websites, creating a huge safety risk for political dissidents and marginalized groups.

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A fundamental tool to protect user privacy online is at stake. ICANN, the governing body that sets policy around Internet domain names, is considering a proposal by Big Content to eliminate privacy around domain name registration. Hollywood wants less privacy so they can take down allegedly infringing sites—but this selfish ask threatens all sorts of Internet users who rely on privacy tools to stay safe.

Intellectual property holders (or those posing as IP holders) have shown time and again that they can—and will—readily abuse copyright and trademark takedown systems, and right now the proposal in front of ICANN doesn’t impose any consequences for false accusations. Is this the system we want to create, leaving people's sensitive personal information open to such flimsy process?

Sign the petition below and tell Internet policymakers that our privacy must not be sacrificed at the content industry's behest. Although formal comment period is closed, we will get this to the ICANN working group and deliver your message at the next ICANN meeting in October.

December 14, 2017

Dear ICANN,

Domain privacy is necessary to the Web as we know it.

The Internet as an engine for speech—including critical, important, and unpopular speech—relies on privacy safeguards in order to allow users to speak freely. When registering a domain, you're required to provide personal information (name, telephone number, email, physical address) to a "WHOIS" database. Because privacy was not built into WHOIS when it was first designed, many registrars offer domain privacy services (or "proxy services"), which replace users' contact information with their own. Big Hollywood corporations and law enforcement, however, are trying to hamstring this indispensable tool.

Domain privacy services offer vital privacy protections to a variety of users. Home businesses, for example, may want to hide their personal addresses from customers. Political bloggers may need to protect themselves and their families from repressive governments. People who are targeted for harassment online—often those perceived to be women, nonwhite, or LGBTQ—may seek to hide personal information to preserve physical safety. Anonymity in each of these examples provides an invaluable service.

We the undersigned, as Internet users, urge ICANN not to impose limiting new conditions on these privacy-protective services. By fracturing the main way we anonymize domain-name registrations, ICANN would be giving a generous gift both to harassers and to oppressive regimes. In the longer term, users deserve a better way to register domains while preserving their privacy than requiring them to use a proxy, for which many registrars charge additional fees. We strongly encourage ICANN to pursue with greater urgency the comprehensive improvement of the legacy WHOIS service, to build in privacy and security by design.

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