Any seller who has registered a domain for their website on a site like GoDaddy will be familiar with "domain by proxy" services - for an extra fee, you can keep your name and contact information from appearing in the WhoIs database, which anyone can access. But that privacy option may become a thing of the past.
Small online sellers generally expect marketplaces like eBay and Etsy to keep their contact information private, releasing it only to customers after a purchase. Likewise, sellers often choose to keep their contact information private in the WhoIs database when setting up domain names for their websites, especially if they are running a home-based business.
But ICANN, the organization that regulates domain names, is considering a proposal that would eliminate such privacy for any commercial use of websites - meaning anyone could look up a website owner's address - even their home address, if that's what was used to register the domain.
The Wall Street Journal
explained the two sides of the controversy. "On one side are the entertainment industry, copyright attorneys and some consumer advocates who want to prohibit websites conducting online transactions from registering anonymously, as an estimated 23% of websites do now," the newspaper explained.
On the other side are companies that register websites and some civil-liberties groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
The EFF explains its concerns about the proposal in this blog post
, and urges people to let ICANN know how they feel. They have until Tuesday, July 7th.
"The limited value of this change is manifestly outweighed by the risks to website owners who will suffer a higher risk of harassment, intimidation and identity theft," it wrote, and provided ways for people to register their opinions.
EcommerceBytes requires vendors and marketplaces we write about to register their domain names publicly. After all, if a service provider collects a seller's information, that seller should have a way of getting in touch with them.
Shoppers may feel the same way when making purchases from unknown merchants. But privacy is a major concern among sellers, and such issues have arisen among eBay and Etsy users in the past.
Would you be concerned if your name and address became public in the WhoIs directory when someone looked up your website domain? Or is it the cost of doing business?