IRD grabs nation's domain name owners

Comprehensive information on the owners of all .nz internet domain names has been supplied to the Inland Revenue department by national registry Domainz.

Comprehensive information on the owners of all .nz internet domain names has been supplied to the Inland Revenue department by national registry Domainz.

Some domain-name holders are concerned and some annoyed at the move, particularly as Domainz did not consult with or inform name-holders before handing the information over.

IRD has virtually carte blanche to request information from any individual or organisation, and they are required to supply it. The department does not have to give a reason for requiring the information or say what it will be used for.

No reason was given on the IRD’s written request, says Domainz chief executive Donna Hiser. A source close to subsequent verbal discussions say IRD gave its motive variously as "cross-checking", which the source says "could mean anything", and a suggestion that the information “was required for improving their [IRD’s] compliance policies with respect to e-commerce and use of the internet".

Hiser confirms there was a written request, despite rumours among internet users that the whole deal took place on the phone. Hiser says on receiving the request, the company took legal advice, and was told it had no option but to supply the information to IRD.

"It was nothing more than it could have got anyway," she says, by going to the Domainz web page (www.domainz.net.nz, and clicking on “domain name search”). However, to build up a list that way, IRD staff would have to spend hours entering domain names one by one in the search form and copying off the details on each one - assuming they knew all the domain names to begin with. New .nz domain names are published regularly in the Internet Society of New Zealand Usenet newsgroup. "We just saved them a bit of time," says Hiser.

The data was recorded on a CD-ROM and Domainz charged IRD for its preparation.

Data on the web page include name, address, telephone numbers and email address of the holder as well as identifying the internet service provider and domain-name servers used. Inclusion of email addresses led some IsocNZ members to fear "spam" from the IRD reminding them of their tax obligations.

The decision to inform Internet Society members of the approach was taken only after the IsocNZ council had discussed the matter, Hiser and council member Richard Bourne say. The period from first application by IRD to informing the members was about six weeks, Hiser says.

Many domain-name holders outside the membership of the society will still be uninformed of the move.

See also One rule for Telecom...

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