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NZ Domain Name Commission wins injunction against Domain Tools

NZ Domain Name Commission wins injunction against Domain Tools

Domain Tools was allegedly exposing the details of domain name holders who wanted to keep personal details private

New domain owner privacy option enforced in US court

New domain owner privacy option enforced in US court

Credit: Dreamstime

New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission has won a motion for preliminary injunction in a US lawsuit against the company DomainTools.

This case involves Domain Tools allegedly exposing the details of domain name holders who wanted to keep personal details private under New Zealand law.

Earlier this year, the Domain Name Commission mandated a privacy option for all .nz domain name holders not in trade - this allowed people to withhold their address and phone number from publicly appearing in the online registration data search.

More than 20,000 domain names have already taken up the option.

However, DomainTools, a digital intelligence-gathering company in the US, has allegedly been scraping registration data from New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission for many years and makes those historic records searchable.

The commission said this mass collection of data breaches its terms of use and exposes details of domain name holders who choose to have them kept private.

"The ruling allows the Commission to continue balancing online accountability with respect for individual privacy," said Domain Name Commissioner, Brent Carey.

DomainTools argued that the lawsuit may cause an avalanche of litigation as other registries attempt to protect the privacy of their registrants, and the US district judge Robert S Lasnik said they may be correct.

The judgement said the law clearly favours the plaintiff on the merits of its contract claim: "[The] defendant’s access to the information in the .nz register was subject to certain limitations, including a prohibition on using “multiple” or “high volume” queries to download (i.e., copy from one computer system to another) part or all of the register.

"[The] plaintiff will likely be able to show that defendant violated the terms of use when it downloaded [the] plaintiff’s data to create a private version of the register.

"Once [the] defendant became aware of the amended terms of use, its downloads and use of the stored data in its products and services constituted additional violations."

Carey said the commission looks forward to presenting it full case to the Court to permanently prevent DomainTools from building a secondary .nz database offshore and outside the control of the Domain Name Commission.

DomainTools requested more than $5 million 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 bond of only NZ$1500 was required.

"The ruling temporarily puts to an end DomainTools’ bulk harvesting of .nz domain holders’ personal information and selling that data for a profit," Carey said.

"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."


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