UK COPPERS have told the Internet domain name outfit Nominet that they want to take the domain names of "illegal sites" to shut them down.
Nominet said it has received a request from the UK Serious Crime Unit asking for a procedure to be established whereby it can seize a website's domain name to shut it down.
The move will send shivers down the spines of civil liberties groups who will be worried that the police will use the power to crack down on websites that the authorities don't like.
Coppers used existing powers to silence websites that provided information to students protesting against huge rises in university fees, a proposal the students think is designed to keep poor people from getting up the social ladder.
Currently Nominet does not have any clear obligation in its registrant terms and conditions that a domain name may not be used in connection with any activity that would constitute an offence under UK criminal law.
However other domain name registries including .org and .biz do have such a requirement and Nominet thinks it should change its terms and conditions.
This would give a contractual basis to suspend a domain where Nominet has reasonable grounds to believe it is being used to commit a crime. This basically would mean a notification from a UK law enforcement agency, so if the coppers say that what you are doing is illegal you could lose your domain name.
So far Nominet has worked on trust with the coppers and this has led to the suspension of over 1,200 domain names that were being used for criminal activity since December 2009.
The plan is to have a system in place to look at how it handles formal requests for suspension, whether safeguards are necessary such as an appeals process and what information and support might be needed from the industry for responsible officers in law enforcement agencies to help them identify when action is appropriate. µ
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