The Case of OpOc

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2007-01-11 Print this article Print

vs. Special Circumstances"> There are two main proposals being considered and a number of more detailed questions. The two new models are called OPoC (the Operational Point of Contact) and the Special Circumstances proposal. OPoC, which I discussed in a recent column, is backed by many (self-styled, perhaps) privacy advocates, and is similar to GoDaddys DomainsByProxy model: The contact information is no longer that of the actual domain owner, but some third party with a code that allows them to contact the actual owner. Crucially, OPoC, as the ICANN report says, "does not include a mechanism for access to Whois data by, for example, law enforcement agencies or intellectual property rights holders."
Someone is spying on Whois requests and snatching the domains. How does it work? Click here to read more.
This limitation has led many to support the alternative Special Circumstances model, also known as the Netherlands Model, because the rules are similar to those governing the .nl top-level domain: "It allows individuals who demonstrate the existence of special circumstances to substitute contact details of the registrar for the data that would otherwise appear in published Whois." In other words, it allows some people to use the OPoC model if they qualify. So who qualifies? According to the ICANN report:
    The proposal envisages that full contact data of individuals would be held back from publication in the Whois only when this "would jeopardize a concrete and real interest in their personal safety or security that cannot be protected other than by suppressing that public access." This would seem to indicate that the vast majority of contact information would be published in the Whois, and that means of access to unpublished data would rarely be required.
The classic example is a Web site for a battered womens shelter. Special Circumstances is backed most famously by intellectual property holders and their attorneys, and law enforcement. MarkMonitor, a corporate identity management and protection services company and a domain registrar itself, is organizing a campaign in support of Special Circumstances. Its got an impressive list of supporters there, and if you agree you can join the endorsement. I really am sympathetic to the interests of intellectual property owners, but Special Circumstances is a pretty meager concession to the privacy and abuse problems. Sure, I sympathize with battered womens shelters, but what about the more general problems of abuse, spamming and domain theft, for example? These didnt show up on the radar of the Special Circumstances people. I wish I could come up with a proposal that could satisfy both parties, and I dont want to look at it too much from the point of view of my own private interests. The best I can come up with is that I can understand the interests of both sides, but I think its best to support OPoC, and, once thats in place, see how to facilitate access to registrant information for law enforcement and legitimate legal mechanisms. At least theres a chance that could be accomplished. If we adopt Special Circumstances then the interests of most of the public are shoved aside. But enough about me, what do you think? Tell ICANN yourself by e-mailing it on this matter: Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Ryan Naraines eWEEK Security Watch blog.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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