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I am a strong advocate of the new TLD process that is currently ongoing in the ICANN community and it is something that will be central to the discussions in the upcoming meeting in Sydney.
One of the areas that I feel particularly strong about is privacy for registrants.
If you register a co.uk domain or a .eu domain as a private individual you can choose to hide your contact information in whois. What that means is that your contact details remain private, as long as you are a private individual. If you are a business user, then you should be displaying your contact information, as is mandated by various EU directives (it also makes sense for consumers to know who is behind a website).
Unfortunately in the gTLD world (ie. com/net/org/info/biz) the whois data is not private, so any information you supply during domain registration will be viewable.
With the launch of .tel the landscape for gTLDs changed slightly and it is now possible for a private individual to “opt out” of whois when they register .tel domains.
So what of the new TLDs? Will they be able to offer private registrants that same level of privacy?
I would have liked to think that they would be able to, especially as several of the new TLD projects are aimed at providing domain name services for cultural and ethnic groups, such as the Basques, Scots and Bretons (to name a few).
Unfortunately the intellectual property advocates would appear to hold their rights to be of greater importance than those of private citizens’ right to privacy.
As part of the new TLD process the IRT report, which was published a couple of days ago, looked at the issue of registrant privacy, but basically swept it under the carpet, as it did not fit with their view of how whois should work.
Hopefully the ICANN board and other actors will have the foresight to see past their blinkered recommendations and allow new registry operators to give domain registrants the same rights to privacy as the cctld operators already do.
There is currently a public comment period open on this very subject, so I would urge people to take a few minutes to submit their views.