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Campaigners oppose Nominet plans for secure .uk domain

Warwick Ashford

Digital rights campaigners, businesses and charities have criticised the plans of UK's top-level domain name registry Nominet to create a “secure” .uk domain alongside the existing .co.uk and .org.uk domains.

They say Nominet's plans would give it a monopoly over trust and security in the UK domain space.

Nominet proposes to allow only UK-based companies to use the .uk root. The domain registry will scan websites with the domain suffix for malicious software and adopt DNSSEC security protocols to provide assurance to users of these domain names that they are safe and secure.

Gated community

But the Open Rights Group (ORG) and a coalition of children’s charities said there were a number of problems with Nominet proposals.

"The proposed powers and security offerings would enable Nominet to create a trusted gated community with that real estate (or at least the perception of such), inflating its value in relation to other domains,” the group said.

"This would be something of a commercial coup for Nominet and registrars. They would be the primary winners from the proposals.”

The web addresses ending in .uk will cost around four times as much as existing suffixes, according to the Telegraph.

The walled-garden approach would inevitably undermine other domains – such as.co.uk – and could undermine the market for online security services, the ORG said.

"Given the status of trusted authority and security provider to which Nominet aspires, some consumers may reasonably conclude that only services with a .uk domain are trustworthy,” the ORG said.

"That would damage the perception of those websites who choose not to take up the service.”

The ORG expressed concerns that website operators would effectively be held to ransom and pressured into operating through a .uk domain.

The Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, said the proposals effectively acknowledge that the regime which applies to some or all of the other uk domains is open to the forms of abuse which the .uk counter measures are designed to prevent.

Profit from ethical distinction

John Carr, the group’s chief executive, has called for more rules around of .co.uk web addresses to stop them being abused by criminals.

“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Nominet could be setting itself up to run and profit from two entirely separate regimes, operating at two entirely different ethical levels,” Carr said.

A public consultation on the proposals closed last week. Nominet said it had received more than 850 responses and would publish a summary on 26 February.

“Having reviewed the feedback, the board will then consider the best way forward,” it said.

Communications minister Ed Vaizey indicated the government has no plans to intervene.

“It is a private-sector, not for profit, public-purpose company. Its day-to-day operations are not subject to regulation by the government,” Vaizey told the House of Commons last week.


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