The other day I went crazy and registered a ton of new domains and I wanted some that ended in “.us” but I was dismayed to find out from my domain registrar, Network Solutions, that “.us” domain names could not be protected via private registration. When I asked NetSol why they refused to privatize “.us” domains contact information, I was surprised to receive this reply:

Please note that the Private Registration service is not available for .US domain name registrations due to a dramatic change in the .US policy:

The United States Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has recently completed its review of anonymous domain registration services by .US Accredited Registrars. At the conclusion of this review, NTIA directed NeuStar to phase out the offering of such services by Registrars or by any of its partners or resellers … [emphasis added]”

While we do not agree with this mandate, Network Solutions will comply and no longer offer the Private Registration service for .US domain name registrations. This policy is in effect immediately and applies only to .US domain name registrations.


In case you don’t know, a private domain registration provides the
ability to hide your personal contact information when others look up
your domain online through a public database. You can go to CentralOps.Net,
click on the “Domain Dossier” link, and type in the name of any domain
to see what you can learn about the person who owns the domain.

Spammers and Stalkers and other undesirables use those public searches
to find people.
An example of a private domain registration can be found if you go to CentralOps.Net and type in “urbansemiotic.com
— part of what you will get returned is this contact information
provided by Network Solutions, but most domain registrars can privatize
your information in a similar manner:

Registrant:
David W. Boles

ATTN: URBANSEMIOTIC.COM

c/o Network Solutions

P.O. Box 447
Herndon, VA. 20172-0447

While
my personal information is protected by Network Solutions, anyone can
contact me through that information. With proper legal action, Network
Solutions will reveal my private contact details to the authorities if
the necessity arises: NetSol provides a private domain service, not a
secret domain service.

I pay NetSol $12 a year per domain for that
identity protection and it is worth every penny.
Now back to the “.us” domain privacy issue.
Does anyone know what’s really happening here?
What is the true intent of this new NTIA policy?

Is this a Department of Homeland Security ploy?
What’s the difference between registering a “.us” domain name verses a
“.info” or “.com” or “.net” or “.org” extension?
Why is “.us” singled out for non-privacy protection?
I did some deeper digging and here’s what Wired News reported in March, 2005:

The .us domain has been around since 1985. For nearly 20
years, it was used exclusively by schools and libraries, as well as
state and federal government offices. But in April 2002, it was opened
to the public for use — with the stipulation that domain owners either
be U.S. citizens or have a business in this country or some other
direct connection to the country. On Feb. 2, the NTIA sent a letter to NeuStar,
the company responsible for administering the .us domain and for
accrediting companies that sell the domain addresses.

The letter also
called on registrars to correct existing proxy registration information
— including name, phone number and postal and e-mail addresses — from
.us customers and update the public Whois database for those domains by
Jan. 26, 2006. The NTIA directive applied only to .us domains, because
the NTIA doesn’t set policy for other domain names, such as .com and
.net. In the letter it sent to NeuStar, the NTIA said its move was
intended to increase the accuracy and reliability of Whois information
for the public and for “law enforcement officials who rely on the information.
[emphasis added]”

It would also allow the NTIA to contact website
owners if their domain registrar goes out of business and to transfer
their domain to another registrar…. NTIA’s edict would not ensure
that registration information was accurate, because those who really
want to conceal their identity or true contact information would
provide fake information — even if it violated the terms of agreement
for purchasing a .us domain.

Does anyone else feel a chill descending in the air around the ideas of privacy and freedom of speech in America?

11 Comments

  1. First US, then COM then everything else will be non-private and no one will say a word and if you do they’ll de-register your domain all for better “enforcement.”

  2. Yeah, it’s a pretty scary thing, Carla! Imagine the people who purchased .US domains — Go Daddy alone registered over 120,000 .US domains in the past three years — and then paid to have their contact information privatized to only later have the government pull off the veil protecting that personal information all, it seems, in the name of fighting terrorism!

  3. It all started when they went after encyrption software because of security concerns.
    I predict there won’t be any private domain names for the same reasons. The government will want to be able to track people down at will and without the need to get a subpeona or search warrant. Of course, the bad guys can always obtain fake IDs, while upstanding folks end up being left to fend against spammers and stalkers.
    The security state is just getting started, it seems.
    I read recently that the FBI is firing up a special porn unit to scour the internet. I bet there are other units keeping their eyes on the internet as well.
    The same goes for telephone traffic as well — there was a proposal to make it easier to tap telephone lines and to allow for roving wiretaps. And, don’t even think about privacy on international calls — if the U.S. isn’t listening in, some other nation’s government probably is and is relaying the information back to the U.S. for processing.
    I went to an internet “cafe” the other day when I was out of town for business to check my email. I had to give my driver’s license to the clerk at the counter to use the computer. I wonder if this is a voluntary procedure or something mandated from higher authorities?
    It’s good to take action to keep us safe, but there comes a point where the security state can threaten us more than it protects.
    We think it can’t happen here, but if we don’t hold the line, we can lose many of the freedoms we take forgranted.

  4. Thanks for the fascinating update, Chris! You’re right about the security software being the first line of defense to die. You are also quite correct that private domain registrations will not live long in this current police state of mind we’ve been bound into the last several years.
    You were brave to hand over your license! I don’t think I would do that today. I would offer a credit card over a license because if the information is stolen I have protection from my bank but if my license disappears I have just given over vital information that can never really be recovered.
    When I made my server switch to Network Solutions — I’m still fighting with them over database speed, BTW — they say it’s fine and I say it’s 10 times slower than my previous host. We’re now in the “so’s your mother!” mode :mrgreen: and that is a bit depressing.
    Anyway… I wanted to get a “site seal” for my new hosting deal with them that, while not an SSL commercially secure “bug,” would still identify me as a “known source” for the work I do on the web — at least that’s how NetSol sells the darn thing.
    NetSol told me to get the seal I had to fax them my license, my phone bill and my bank statement so they could “identify” me! I told them they identified me enough to charge my credit card for the service before telling me they needed this extra proof and I said that kind of extra “proof” is ridiculous because I am not using that seal to process money. I also told them I could go across the street and get a commercial Comodo SSL seal for half the price and the only ID I needed was my credit card verification. I’m still waiting for my NelSol refund…
    I agree we must all be vigilant about our privacy and our freedoms and stand up with each other and shout “Enough!” at the top of our lungs in spite of the virtual shackles that presently bind our hands and minds.