Forgive the attention-seeking title. I’ve blogged before (here and here) about Nominet’s misguided proposal for a rather too cosy relationship with law enforcement agencies (I say “Nominet’s” proposal, though it’s never been entirely clear whether the proposal emanated from SOCA, Nominet or both). Now their issue group has come up with a set of principles that they will be proposing to the board for adoption. As feared, this principles remain misguided, though to be fair to the authors there has been an attempt (albeit very limited) to address some of the concerns raised. My full response is here, but for those not wanting to read a five page PDF, I have summarized below how my four main arguments that Nominet should not suspend domain names allegedly associated with criminal activity have been addressed.
Firstly, that there are already more effective ways of dealing with this, such as going to registrars and use of the ‘investigation lock’. The proposed principles do not set out why existing mechanisms are inadequate. There is some attempt at limiting the ambit of the proposals to situations where other routes have been exhausted, but bizarrely this is only proposed where no serious harm is being caused. Why Nominet should even consider suspending domain names where no serious harm is being caused is beyond me.
Secondly, collateral damage. The proposals appear not to address this point at all. There is no proposed linkage between registrant, alleged criminal and domain name, so nothing to stop an alleged criminal using a demon.co.uk address causing the suspension of demon.co.uk, or an employer having its domain suspended because of the unauthorised actions of an employee.
Thirdly, civil liberties and due process. I accept that civil liberties need to be balanced against protection of the public from serious crime, and that some attempt has been made to address this balance. However, protection ‘of the public’ from counterfeit Ugg Boots (for instance) does not seem to me a particularly significant altar on which to sacrifice civil liberties. The policy should concentrate on crimes more serious than these.
Fourthly, mission creep. The proposals do not address this. Indeed, disappointingly, the mission creep has already started, with an issue group tasked to look at criminal activity already recommending to the board that it look at ‘civil and third party’ complaints too.
Conspicuously absent from the proposals is any cogent explanation of why Nominet should be doing this in the first place.
Nominet is in general quite good at listening to feedback, so I encourage you to submit some, as detailed here. Thankfully, not every romance ends in marriage.