Canadians following the embattled Trump administration of the United States are likely experiencing a mixture of bemusement and concern, but there are also some important lessons to learn when reading between the headlines. As it happens, recent news involving the Speaker of the White House highlight the need for strong DNS privacy controls.
The WHOIS and DNS Interaction
Domain name service registration is a process that can be described as one of the building blocks of the internet. The global DNS structure can be looked up via the WHOIS protocol and function that is intrinsically tied to DNS.
WHOIS started as an internal database developed by the American forefathers of the internet in the early 1980s. This database was created for the purpose of collecting information about the entities that utilized the early versions of the internet, which until about the mid 1990s was limited for site registration to government, academic, research, and business organizations. The WHOIS database was originally intended as a central repository of technical contact information; however, this changed into a massive collection of personal data around 1999, when the Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers took over the oversight of DNS registration.
Controlling DNS Privacy
Back to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, his new and controversial job as one of the public contacts for President Donald Trump has launched him into the global spotlight. Armed with only his name, information hunters launched a series of WHOIS queries and came up with a number of websites that he registered years before becoming involved with Trump.
In addition to the websites registered by Spicer, personal details such as his home address and telephone numbers were leaked to the public by the individuals who conducted the WHOIS search. It is important to note that WHOIS queries can be carried out by anyone since this is a public internet service.
Registering a domain name does not have to be an exercise in releasing personal information to the world. Sean Spicer could have paid $7.99 per year to his web hosting provider to make his registration contact information private.
Internet researchers and analysts have argued that WHOIS is an archaic service that ought to be retired. In Canada, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act does not preclude collecting and maintaining WHOIS information; however, it does allow web hosting providers to enact privacy controls such as the ones that Sean Spicer neglected to obtain.
In a time when activist groups such as Anonymous thrive on using personal information to attack their targets, WHOIS privacy for domain name registration is more important than ever, and this is something that Canadians should keep in mind as they register new websites. Additional resources can be found at www.bluecatnetworks.com.