The European Union is drafting legislation that may soon end individuals registering domains anonymously on the continent.
When an Internet domain is registered, a registrar collects information such as the buyer’s name, address, email address, and phone number. However, this information is not verified to be correct and may contain false information.
The new EU directive will add new provisions regarding how domain registrars collect registrant information and who will have access to that information.
Specifically, registrants of new domains will need to provide a valid phone number belonging to them, while their full name, email address, and physical address will also need to be verified.
Currently, registrants are only required to provide a name and address, but no verification body verifies them to approve or disprove new domain ownership.
“In order to ensure the availability of accurate, verified and complete domain name registration data, TLD registries and entities providing domain name registration services should be required to collect name registration data.” domain. They should aim to guarantee the integrity and availability of these data by implementing technical and organizational measures, such as a confirmation process for registrants ”, reads an amendment in a draft of new European legislation.
“In particular, TLD registries and entities providing domain name registration services should establish policies and procedures for the collection and maintenance of accurate, verified and complete registration data, as well as for the prevention and correcting inaccurate registration data. “
Who is lobbying for this?
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has taken a clear stand in favour of the new directive with various representatives and organizations of copyright holders.
The problem that these entities see with anonymous domains is that they are often used for illegal activities such as distributing malware, unlicensed distribution of copyrighted works, etc.
As long as the owners and operators of these platforms remain anonymous, they are safe from any disturbance by law enforcement.
Even though domains are flagged and taken offline by registrars, owners can change one and start over.
A threat to freedom of expression
However, the ban on any anonymous domain registration is not without consequences for a desirable free flow of information on the Internet.
As MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party) warns, the new directive threatens the safety of activists and whistleblowers by ending their anonymity, which is, in essence, the only layer of protection they have.
“This policy of blind identification of domain owners is a big step towards the abolition of anonymous publications and leaks on the Internet.
This policy puts website operators at risk, as anonymity alone effectively protects against data theft and loss, harassment and identity theft, doxxing and “death lists”.
The right to anonymity online is particularly essential for women, children, minorities and vulnerable people, victims of abuse and harassment, for example. Whistleblowers and press informants, political activists and people in need of advice are silent without the protection of anonymity. “- MEP Patrick Breyer.
The German top-level domain registry (.de) DENIC has also raised concerns about the new directive.
In feedback to legislators, DENIC welcomes the proposals to improve cybersecurity across the EU, but believes that the new registration data collection requirements will not necessarily improve DNS security or prevent abuse.
“We would also like to point out that the identification of the holder does not provide information on the entity exercising actual technical control over the delegated namespace and even less on the entities providing content or services within this namespace. ” – DENIC.
The next steps
The industry steering committee will adopt its position later this month, and negotiations with the EU Council will follow soon after.
The controversial provision can be removed, but the law is passed in its current form, it may require those seeking anonymity online to host their websites on the dark web.