You may remember that around this time last year, Nominet announced a misguided proposal for a cosy relationship with law enforcement agencies. I’ve blogged several times before about this (here, here, here and here), but last week their issue group has come up with yet another revised set of draft recommendations that they will be proposing to the board for adoption.

Nominet unfortunately did not provide a version with tracked changes. I’ve highlighted the main differences in the document (and in my comments) in my response.

It won’t come as any great surprise to observers of this process that the same misguided principles remain. The changes from last time are mostly small incremental improvements. The main problem – and I find this somewhat difficult to believe given the number of iterations this document has been through now – is that it is not obvious how ‘connected’ your domain name has to be to an alleged criminal, in order to be subject to the policy; in simple terms there is 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. On the positive side, the clause which apparently widened the process to include any crime at all has now gone, and they’ve made some further minor improvements to the process.

So, once again, they’ve improved the process and some of the safeguards, but have yet to address at least one key issue, together of course with the overarching point: why on earth should Nominet be doing this at all?

My full response is here.

This time we get eight days to reply (by 18 November) which I suppose is an improvement over three. I encourage you to submit your own response, by writing to policy@nominet.org.uk. I know some people have in the past just written ‘I agree with Alex’, which whilst better than nothing and mildly flattering, is probably not as effective as explaining why (at least in relation to the primary concerns). If, for instance, you were to state in your own words that you think the whole policy is a bad idea, but that you are particularly concerned that innocent registrants might be hit as the policy makes no express provision for minimising collateral damage (as in the demon.co.uk example above) , that would probably be useful.
 


 
A brief epilogue for those few people interested in the minutiae of Nominet governance rather than the substance of the issue at hand:

In my original blog post I said: “I think the paper is written by SOCA rather by than Nominet, though that’s not clear.” The issue group page now says “The policy process was started with a proposal submitted by Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) regarding domain names used in connection with criminal activity”. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t on the issue group page from the beginning, and it’s a welcome clarification. However, you have to wonder why:

  • the paper has no mention of SOCA as an author at all, cryptically referring to “we” which is easily read to mean Nominet, especially as it mentions SOCA as a potential interested party along with others who did not author the paper; and
  • the paper is written in Nominet’s house font, with an author attribute of “Tania” (who might just be Nominet’s ever helpful Tania Baumann, who is no doubt very bored of me by now).

Nominet got a bit of a hysterical pasting when the proposals first came out (e.g. here), because (quite reasonably) the proposals were attributed to Nominet rather than to SOCA. It looked like Nominet were recommending them in their original form, rather than SOCA recommending them. And Nominet were not exactly quick to deny this. As I wrote elsewhere at the time, I put this down to a rather bumpy introduction of the new policy development process, rather than any particular evil doing at Nominet Towers (is that link right? – Ed). A learning point here is that if you do not want your consultation to look like a fait-accompli (and, to be fair to Nominet, it wasn’t – a fair amount has changed since the original set of recommendations even though I remain opposed to the principle) then make it quite clear who authored the original proposals, and that you do not (yet) have a view on them.