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Tightening the screws?

11 March 2019

The UK is pulling out of the EU in a move that has been called "Brexit".

Whilst politicians are attempting to negotiate a "tidy" exit, it's increasingly looking as if there will be no all-encompassing deal to ensure that the withdrawal is conducted smoothly and with mutual agreement in respect to the multitude of small details involved.

One example of how Brexit will impact businesses based in the UK is the issue of domain names -- in particular, domains registered under the .eu top level.

To be eligible to register or renew a .eu domain, the holder must be an EU resident. While the UK was a member country, this posed no problem for the estimated 300,000 companies, groups or individuals who registered such domains but once Britain withdraws, everything changes.

As of the end of the month, UK identities will no longer have any right to these domains... and that's a bit of a problem.

From what I've read, those domains will remain valid until they are due for renewal, at which time, if the holder can not provide proof that ownership has been transferred to an EU-resident entity, they will be can canceled and made available to other registrants.

In a world where branding is everything and companies spend vast sums of money to create an awareness of their online presence, this could be a real issue to anyone from the UK who has done this with a .eu domain. Not only will they lose that domain when it next comes up for renewal but they will also face the risk that someone else will snatch up the domain and effectively cybersquat that expensive online presence.

For companies, this is particularly worrying -- if they've been using an email address under the .eu top level. No matter how hard they try to contact all previous contacts that might have used that address, it is almost certain that people will continue to use the old email so that any "squatter" who buys that domain and creates an open mailbox could be in to receive some very valuable information from unwitting senders.

However, where's there is a problem there is also an opportunity.

I can see a huge potential for the creation of "domain proxy" companies to set up in EU states. They could register or renew these domains on behalf of UK-based individuals, groups or companies and then operate them on their behalf.

I'm not sure if EU domain regulations forbid domain proxy operations (I suspect they do, because the boys in Brussels have nothing better to do than cook up tonnes of lame regulations to cover every aspect of business and life) but if they've left that gap open then all may be well.

In the meantime, I guess this shows that even though we like to think the Net has turned the world into a global village, it only takes a small group of bureaucrats to turn that idea on its head... as in Russia.

The Russian government is working to reduce that country's reliance on US-based servers and will therefore be compartmentalising its internet infrastructure. Those opposed to this believe it is a cynical move by the Kremlin to restrict the freedoms of Net users.

The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear that "the powers that be" around the world are now clearly moving to control and modulate the internet (sometimes in subtle ways) to mitigate its potential to disrupt their control. (Oh no.. "conspiracy"! :-).

We have YouTube shutting down channels in accord with its own agenda, Facebook similarly deleting pages and accounts on a whim and now governments are stepping in to reshape the Net to suit their own agendas.

Should we be worried?

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