TPP means no more domain privacy

Last summer, thousands of organizations and individuals wrote to ICANN to defend domain-name proxies that keep registrants' personal information private — a crucial facility used by people in danger of political or personal reprisal, from people fleeing gender violence to dissidents documenting human rights abuses.

Literally the same day that ICANN published its report agreeing with the commenters who defended online privacy, the USA attended a closed-door OECD meeting and tried to kill it, saying that being engaged in "commercial" activity should be deprived privacy — take ads, sell t-shirts or solicit donations to keep the lights on and your privacy is no longer yours to command.

The US negotiators are creatures of the American entertainment industry, which has declared anonymity to be public enemy number one, and declared everyone who benefits from anonymity to be acceptable collateral losses in its fight to make sure we are all entertained only in proscribed ways.

But even if the OECD rebuffs the US delegation, anonymity is under dire threat. The Trans Pacific Partnership's leaked IP chapter showed that the US delegates had rammed through language requiring signatories to disclose WHOIS data, even data behind anonymous proxies.

But on privacy proxy services, it has gone back on this commitment; not just once, but again. Apart from this week's OECD discussions, this month's leak of the IP chapter of the TPP revealed that U.S. negotiators have also forced text on the public disclosure of WHOIS data onto eleven other nations around the Pacific rim. This auguments the OECD resolution by extending it to country-code domain registries, which are otherwise independently managed. But this too breaks promises that the U.S. has made, including its agreement in the Tunis Agenda on the Information Society that:

Countries should not be involved in decisions regarding another country's country-code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD). Their legitimate interests, as expressed and defined by each country, in diverse ways, regarding decisions affecting their ccTLDs, need to be respected, upheld and addressed via a flexible and improved framework and mechanisms.

If the United States government wishes to protect domain name administration from the clutches of repressive governments and intergovernmental organizations such as the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), then it also needs to curtail its own interference, either directly or through the intergovernmental processes and treaty negotiations that it controls. For all ICANN's faults, it is a far more appropriate venue for stakeholders to develop standards on domain privacy than either the OECD, or secretive trade negotiations such as the TPP.

U.S. Bypasses ICANN Debates on Domain Privacy with Closed Room Deals at the OECD and TPP
[Jeremy Malcolm/EFF]