“Cast a wide net…”

ars Technica reports on on a case where it appears that a legitimate web business was taken down because of what one or more customers was doing.

Details remain sketchy, but the fact that the site was allowed to reopen on the .net domain after its .com presence was summarily executed would seem to indicate it was not the site or its owners in the cross hairs. Much to the chagrin of the company owners and over 400,000 customers, many of whom assume that the site owners were criminals if the Secret Service shuttered the site.

So there must have been some good evidence presented to a grand jury to get a multi-million-dollar internet business closed and a banner displayed in its stead that says “NS1.SUSPENDED-FOR.SPAM-AND-ABUSE.COM” without even notifying the owners, right?

All it took was a request to GoDaddy.com, the domain provider by a prosecutor. JotForm.com has had incidents of phishers using its service to try to harvest personal info, but it had thought that it had cooperated responsibly with authorities. It of course could be that the owner is guilty of crimes the Secret Service is interested in, but if that were the case, why allow the site to go right back on-line with a minor domain change (.org from .com)?

If it was a matter of the site’s customers being the criminals, why not go to the site owners and ask them to cooperate instead of going to the domain provider and closing the site “with prejudice”? How can internet commerce thrive when sites can be taken down and customers lead to believe the site promotes spam and abuse, simply on a prosecutorial request? What are the rights of those trying to do business on the internet? Should those that run sites have their reputations be held hostage by those that use the site?

How do you balance the responsibility of law enforcement to police the internet with those of service providers and clients? Do domain providers “own” the access they provide and can withdraw it upon request? Is there any recourse if someone is portrayed as “spammer” without a judgement by a court?

Tough questions that need legal answers if the internet is going to be a fair and equitable landscape. I doubt Google would be subject to such treatment. But if a company with 400,000 customers can be affected so dramatically without judicial over sight, it will become the domain of those “too big to fail.

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About Paul Vebber

"If you read about something, you have learned about it. If you can teach something, you have mastered it. Designing a useful game about something however, requires developing a deep understanding of how it relates to other things."

Posted on February 19, 2012, in Tech Policy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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