On the Internet, no-one knows you're a dog.
Remember that? Originating in a New Yorker cartoon, it was the phrase used in the early days of the World Wide Web to emphasise how anonymous the Internet could be - a fact exploited by millions of keyboard warriors who express opinions on online forums that they would never dream of mouthing in person. But, on the whole, this anonymity causes no harm.
The anonymity of website owners is another matter however. We've already blogged about the scandal of loosely-administered registrations but the recent survey by ICANN shows the extent of the problem. When only 22 percent of domain name ownership is completely accurate and 22 percent of domain name owners can't be traced at all - partly because some are providing patently false names - there is something very wrong,
It seems that every week, there is some news story somewhere about a dodgy website conning people out of their cash - there was one in my local paper just a few days ago - but when criminals can put up a website with no checks as to who they are, it's hardly surprising that this is exploited.
To its credit, ICANN is well aware of the concerns (and has pointed out some of the real difficulties in maintaining up-to-date information), as is the US government, which has made it one of four action areas of Internet governance. It would be good to think that the ICANN survey has provided some useful ammunition for this, it's action that should have been taken long ago.
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