.NZ Wins Preliminary Injunction Against DomainTools to Keep Registrant Data Private

Posted in: Domain Names at 14/09/2018 21:55

New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission this week won a motion for preliminary injunction in a US court [pdf] to prevent DomainTools from accessing .nz’s Whois details and downloading the information into their own database.

The DNC, whose role they describe as being to develop and monitor a competitive registrar market, as well as creating a fair environment for the registration and management of New Zealand’s country code top level domain, comes under the InternetNZ umbrella. They viewed the victory as important for the .nz domain name space and for domain name holders wanting to keep some of their personal details from public view. It also strikes a precedent for other registries wanting to keep registrant data private.

The DNC notes that managers of other ccTLDs will want to pay attention to the judgment. This may raise confidence to fight their own cases should DomainTools be breaching their terms of use.

The preliminary injunction prevents DomainTools from “sending ‘high volume’ queries, “accessing the .nz Register ‘in bulk’”, “storing or compiling register data”, “publishing historical or non-current versions of the register data; and publishing register data in bulk.”

In the leadup to the decision, in November 2017 the DNC allowed individual registrants who are not in trade to choose to withhold their phone number and contact address from publicly appearing in the domain registrant search (Whois). Earlier this year, this became mandated. More than 20,000 domain names have already taken up the privacy option.

DomainTools is a digital intelligence-gathering company in the US and has been scraping registration data from New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission for many years. This mass collection of data breaches the Commission’s terms of use and exposes details of domain name holders who choose to have their details kept private. This is because DomainTools makes available historic records which show the now withheld information.

Domain Name Commissioner, Brent Carey, says winning this lawsuit is good news for .nz domain name holders and their privacy.

“The ruling allows the Commission to continue balancing online accountability with respect for individual privacy. The ruling temporarily puts to an end DomainTools’ bulk harvesting of .nz domain holders’ personal information and selling that data for a profit.

“This is a step in the right direction to ensure that any person or company looking to build a business on domain name data, in violation of our Terms of Use, can’t do so,” says Carey.

DomainTools argued that this lawsuit may cause an avalanche of litigation as other registries attempt to protect the privacy of their registrants - and Judge Lasnik stated they may be correct.

“We look forward to presenting our full case to the Court, as we seek to permanently prevent DomainTools from ever building a secondary .nz database offshore and outside the control of the Domain Name Commission,” says Carey.

In court, DomainTools requested $3.5 million (over NZ$5m) in bond to compensate for reworking database files to ensure that .nz data is not provided to its customers. However, the judge ruled that a nominal bond of only $1,000 (NZ$1,500) is required.


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