Police Agencies Desire Less Privacy for Website Owners
Before launching a website, one usually purchases a domain name. Google.com, Earthlink.net and Whitehouse.gov are all domain names, for instance. These names mask the unique calling numbers known as IP addresses that are assigned to every website.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is the international non-profit corporation in charge of allocating these domain names. Based out of the USC Information Sciences Institute in Marina del Rey, ICANN maintains the stability of the Internet by essentially making sure both that no two websites have the same “phone number” and that the world does not run out these IP addresses.
When an individual or a group makes a request to buy their own domain name from a registration service such as VeriSign, which operates under the auspices of ICANN, they have to turn over very little information about themselves. As long as the payment goes through, you could call yourself Al Gore.
Agencies such as the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation argued this week at a meeting of ICANN's worldwide "at-large" community in Brussels that the lack of identity verification prevents them from catching criminals, ranging from con-artists to child molesters, who use websites to further their illegal behavior.
The officials have introduced some new ideas that will make it harder for someone purchasing a domain name to hide their identity and contact information. Proponents argue such a move would not only help those in charge of maintaining public safety, but would also make the Internet a safer place to roam altogether.
On the other side, domain name registrars are wary of alienating their customers' privacy. And of even greater concern to them is the cost of implementing the suggested controls to increase transparency.
Either way, ICANN has the final say. But the very-Democratic, bottom-up approach to governance at the corporation could mean that the tougher regulations are not going to come quickly or easily.
Meanwhile, a seven percent increase in the price of registering a .com domain name that was announced by VeriSign earlier this year goes into effect next week.