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New Generic Domain Names A Significant Threat - FTC

December 17, 2011

The USA's Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent a letter to ICANN saying its rollout of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) could make consumers more vulnerable to online fraud.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is pursuing a program where companies will be able to create other domain name extensions; for example, .computer or .bank. The FTC says the initiative will make it easier for fraudsters to play the system and avoid being detected by law enforcement authorities.

"In short, the potential for consumer harm is great, and ICANN has the responsibility both to assess and mitigate these risks," the FTC letter to ICANN states.

Additionally, the FTC has urged ICANN to take immediate steps to address the FTC's and the Governmental Advisory Committee's (GAC) concerns with various ICANN policies and procedures; concerns they have expressed for some time. 

It says the expansion in the number of generic domain name extensions will only increase the challenge of addressing the problems the FTC and the GAC has brought to ICANN's attention in the past - such as incomplete and inaccurate WHOIS records.

The FTC went so far as to say that if ICANN fails to address these issues "responsibly", the introduction of new gTLDs could also undermine consumer confidence in the Internet. The body has recommended ICANN start with a pilot program to identify and rectify potential problems.

The opening of the application period for new generic Top Level Domains begins next month on 12 January. For the initial round, applicants must register for an application by 29 March and complete it by 12 April.

The FTC is not alone in its concerns regarding the gTLD program. Dozens of major national and international business associations and companies recently banded together to form the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO); which has a sole purpose of opposing the rollout.

The FTC is an independent agency of the United States government that enforces competition and consumer protection laws. 

ICANN is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world. The organisation oversees the operations of the Domain Name System.

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