New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission has won a preliminary injunction against a US company that scrapes registration data potentially breaching the privacy of New Zealand domain owners. The case was heard earlier this week in the US District Court in Seattle. The Domain Name Commission is the not-for-profit organisation that regulates the .nz domain. It reports to InternetNZ.

The ruling means DomainTools can no longer collect personal information about .nz domain owners. Domain registry information is often made public and that was the case with the New Zealand registry in the past. However, earlier this year the Domain Name Commission gave New Zealand domain owners the option for their address and phone numbers to not be made public. 

Seattle-based DomainTools describes its business as “helping security analysts turn threat data into threat intelligence”. As part of its intelligence-gathering business it collects domain ownership records to help security analysts evaluate threats. It’s database, which it sells to clients, includes historic .nz domain ownership records. 

In some cases this ownership record information is now withheld from the public. The Domain Name Commission says more than 20,000 domain names now use the privacy option.

Domain Name commissioner, Brent Carey, says: “The ruling allows the commission to continue balancing online accountability with respect for individual privacy. The ruling temporarily puts to an end 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”.

While the injunction is specific to New Zealand domains, it is likely to be watched with interest by overseas registries. 

DomainTools told the court it fears this lawsuit may trigger other litigation with other registries moving to protect their client’s privacy. The Judge agreed that this could be correct. 

Carey says he looks forward to having its full case heard in court. He says it wants to prevent DomainTools from being able to build a secondary .nz database offshore outside the control of the Domain Name Commission.