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Nominet warns on Whois data mining

US firm caught harvesting personal information

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But Paxton defended Intrusion’s technology and business model, saying the only way to identify the source of attacks on networks was to utilize domain name information, and that domain registrars are the only source of such information

“As a result,” he said, “We believe it is essential to the public interest to allow companies like Intrusion to access these publicly available sources of domain name information in order to allow the victims of those attacks to identify the source of such attacks and effectively defend their computer networks.”

A change in the rules State-side

That same law may also soon apply to the US, however, according to internet historian and computer science professor at Syracuse University, Milton Mueller. The existing rule is a hangover from the early days of the internet when intellectual property lawyers had a dispropotionate influence over the creation of domain name rules and procedures.

But the Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO), the arm of internet overseeing organisation ICANN in charge of domain name policy, last month voted in favour of a new, more restrictive, definition for the purposes of Whois data after a three-year review. The new definition should see people's home addresses and telephone numbers pulled from the publicly available database, and there remains ongoing debate whether the email address and even the registrant's name should appear in the records.

According to Mueller, the definition has to be accepted by ICANN, although it will still have to be put to a board vote. It could be adopted as early as 30 June at ICANN's next meeting in Morocco.

Those opposed to the increased privacy, says Mueller, are law enforcement, because of ease of use and the resulting cost without it, commercial search services and intellectual property laws, and data miners. As a result of pressure from these constituencies, the US government also remains opposed to a reduction in the amount of information made available.

It is uncertain whether the US government will again abuse its position as ultimate overseer of the internet, however, following embarassing revelations earlier this month that it had secretly intervened to prevent the creation of a .xxx top-level domain because of pressure from right-wing Christian groups.

The ready availability of millions of people's personal details has remained a concern and high priority for a large number of groups both inside and outside the US, however, and continues to be a main source of information for scammers and spammers on the net.®

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