Privacy advocates question Web rules

Associated Press

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — As more individuals build their own Web sites, privacy advocates are questioning requirements that site owners disclose their personal contact information.

Names, e-mail addresses, postal addresses and telephone numbers for more than 24 million domain names are stored in databases collectively called Whois. The information is available to anyone with an Internet connection.

It’s like a global phone directory — without the option for an unlisted number — and can be easily accessed through servers at companies that register domain names.

"Sacrificing your privacy should not be a condition of access to the domain space," said Alan Davidson, staff counsel with the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Most people may not care and would list their contact information anyway, just like most telephone customers now list their numbers.

But Davidson said Internet users ought to have a choice — for instance, they may want to stay anonymous if they are human rights advocates or dissidents fearful of repercussions from oppressive governments.

Ellen Rony, author of the Domain Name Handbook, said she knew of someone who had been stalked based on information from the databases.

On the other hand, she said, the tool proves helpful for researchers to gauge the origins and veracity of Web sites, and the stalking incident appears an aberration.

"I can see both sides," she said. "Historically, Whois is always public."

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the master record keeper of Web addresses and the domain registration companies, requires disclosure of contact information for holders of .com, .net and .org names.

Andrew McLaughlin, the organization’s chief policy officer, said it may have to revisit Whois policies next year, but it is not on the agenda for its annual meeting this week.

Part of the drive comes from the European Union, which passed a law prohibiting the transfer of data to the United States and other non-EU countries that don’t meet EU standards for protecting personal information.

Back in the 1980s, when the Whois database was developed, Internet privacy wasn’t a big deal. The Internet was mostly a research tool for government and universities.

"We all knew each other," said Karl Auerbach, a longtime Internet user who was recently elected to ICANN.

But these days, Auerbach said, that same Whois database creates unwanted e-mail and unsolicited phone calls.

Davidson said times have changed, and the Internet must change as well.

"Now, you have regular people using it and there’s a much greater need to protect privacy," he said.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The sign at Swedish Edmonds. (Herald file)
New deal gives Swedish nurses, health care workers a big boost in pay

The health care provider and SEIU 1199NW agreed to raises totaling at least 21.5% in the next three years

Ahadi family arriving in Washington on Oct. 22, 2021. (photo courtesy of Lutheran Community Services Northwest)
A year later, Afghan refugees in Lynnwood see brighter future ahead

Ziaurahman Ahadi served as a trauma medic on battlefields in Afghanistan. Now he builds fireplaces to support a family of eight.

Lynnwood
4th defendant pleads guilty in white supremacist attack

Jason Stanley, of Boise, Idaho is one of four men prosecuted for attacking a Black DJ in Lynnwood.

A business on Highway 99 sustained heavy damage in a fire Wednesday morning north of Lynnwood. (South County Fire)
Arson damages building on Highway 99 north of Lynnwood

The fire in the 15800 block caused the highway to close between 156th and 164th streets SW on Wednesday morning.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Snohomish man suffers life-threatening injuries in police shootout

The Valley Independent Investigative Team reported state troopers returned fire when a driver shot at them near Clearview.

An EA-18G Growler taxis down the airstrip on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island during the squadron’s welcome home ceremony in August 2017. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Wood/U.S. Navy)
Talks break down over ‘remedy’ in Whidbey Island Growler lawsuit

“From the get-go, everyone recognized that it was probably going to end up in the court’s hands.”

Logo for news use featuring Camano Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Island County settles sexual harassment lawsuit with deputy

The county will pay Deputy Mike Adrian a total of $105,000.

Drivers navigate through traffic at the intersection of Highway 9 and SR-204 on Thursday, June 16, 2022 in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Weekend closures ahead for Lake Stevens roundabout construction

The first of three intersection closures is set for North Davies Road and Vernon Road next month.

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, right, a Democrat, and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, left, running as a nonpartisan, take part in a debate, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Olympia, Wash., with Melissa Santos, center, of Axios Local, moderating. Hobbs and Anderson are seeking to fill the remaining two years of the term of Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who left to take a key election security job in the Biden administration. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Murray, Smiley will debate head-to-head at least once, maybe twice

The two will face off in Spokane next month. They could square off in Seattle too before the election

Most Read