Digital rights campaigners are teaming up to oppose a move by the .uk domain registry Nominet to continue the suspension of websites at the request of law enforcement agencies.
Nominet began taking down websites used in connection with criminal activity in March, at the prompting of the Serious Organised Crime Agency. These included hundreds of sites thought to be selling counterfeit merchandise. However, draft proposals to continue the regime have been met with protests from The Open Rights Group (ORG), with support from the UK Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) and the London Internet Exchange (LINX).
In a statement issued this week, ORG said that seizures and suspensions should only take place following a court order. It also claimed that Nominet’s current practices fail to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, which establishes the right to an open fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
"Currently, no-one can know in advance when their fundamental Convention rights of freedom of expression, assembly, property and private communications may be interfered with by Nominet – acting at its own discretion on advice from a variety of state agencies," said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.
He added that Nominet was aware that "running ad hoc procedures is dangerous and unsustainable," and said that ISPA, LINX and ORG have informed Nominet that domain suspensions need to take place after receipt of a court order.
The news comes after it was revealed earlier this week that the Metropolitan Police's E-crime Unit has closed approximately 2,000 websites accused of selling counterfeit goods, simply by placing a request with Nominet. According to the Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit (PceU), the sites had been used to flog a number of popular brands such as Ugg, Nike, GHD and Tiffany.
"In the run up to Christmas the PCeU will continue to work with Nominet and other registries to disable as many such sites as possible but I would urge customers to take all precautions to ensure they buy from legitimate sites only," said detective inspector Paul Hoare of the PCeU at the time.