Home Government Tech Policy New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission wins case against data scraper
New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission wins case against data scraper Featured

A court in the US has agreed that Washington-based DNS research tools provider DomainTools violated the NZ Domain Name Commission's terms of use.

Late last week, New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission won a motion for preliminary injunction in a US lawsuit against the company DomainTools. The court judgment can be seen here

Earlier this year, the Domain Name Commission updated its terms of use to mandate that a privacy option be offered for all .nz domain name holders that are not in trade. This meant that people could withhold their address and phone number from publicly appearing in the online registration data search. More than 20,000 domain names have already taken up the privacy option.

The New Zealand Domain Name Commission has asserted that "DomainTools is a digital intelligence-gathering company in the US and has been scraping registration data from New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission for many years. This mass collection of data breaches the Commission’s terms of use and exposes details of domain name holders who choose to have their details kept private. This is because DomainTools makes available historic records which show the now withheld information."

Commissioner Brent Carey, said: "Winning this lawsuit is good news for .nz domain name holders and their privacy.

"The ruling allows the Commission to continue balancing online accountability with respect for individual privacy. The ruling temporarily puts to an end to DomainTools’ bulk harvesting of .nz domain holders’ personal information and selling that data for a profit.

"This is a step in the right direction to ensure that any person or company looking to build a business on domain name data, in violation of our Terms of Use, can’t do so."

The Domain Name Commission’s statement added that "Managers of other countries domain name systems across the world will want to pay attention to the judgment. This may raise confidence to fight their own cases should DomainTools be breaching their terms of use."

Of some amusement, during court proceedings DomainTools argued that this lawsuit may cause an avalanche of litigation as other registries attempt to protect the privacy of their registrants, Judge Lasnik stated that they may be correct.

Carey added, "We look forward to presenting our full case to the Court, as we seek to permanently prevent DomainTools from ever building a secondary .nz database offshore and outside the control of the Domain Name Commission."

During the hearing, DomainTools requested more than US$3.5 million in bond to compensate for reworking their database files to ensure that .nz data is not provided to its customers. However, in a significant mark-down, the judge ruled that a nominal bond of only US$1000 was required.

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