Recent misinformed commentary about restricting access to .NZ domain names reflects a deeply held suspicion in some quarters that foreign corporations and individuals are probably bad actors. Yet there is little evidence to suggest that there are widespread problems with foreign entities abusing our country code domain here in New Zealand.
Cyber criminals are not flocking to colonise .NZ . In fact a recent external review of the Domain Name Commission (DNC) indicated that the organisation was doing a good job of monitoring usage of the New Zealand domain space. But where fraud has been identified in the past, the DNC has been quick to act, as they rightly should do so.
Our neighbours in Australia have indeed chosen to operate a restricted country code domain, but that does not mean New Zealand should automatically follow suit. Only companies holding an Australian Business Number (ABN) or a local trademark may register a .AU domain with us at iwantmyname. There are over 3.1 million .AU registrations, with each domain owner having demonstrated a local presence.
But having tightly controlled access to a country code domain is no panacea. Restricting .NZ domain ownership to locally domiciled companies does not impede determined wrongdoers, unless the registration of company entities themselves is more robust. Recently tightened rules around “ultimate holding companies” in New Zealand are helpful, but do not always prevent fraudsters from disguising the shady origins of a company. In this “post-Christchurch” environment it is only natural to expect heightened fears around online security but user education is the most effective weapon in this battle, not restrictive rules around domain usage.
In our experience, transferring of domains and changing ownership details tends to become a lot more difficult in a restricted registry market. So additional administrative and compliance costs end up being unfairly imposed on registrars. Switching to tighter regulation would disadvantage existing registrants, the vast majority of whom are acting responsibly.
Calls to restrict the .NZ domain space are also based on a misguided view that domain names (and other assets) have some kind of sovereign status that must be defended at all costs. It is this same xenophobic viewpoint that saw foreign buyers of property recently excluded from the New Zealand market, even though they make up only a small percentage of investors. With .NZ already showing signs of negative growth, legislators should be cautious about ejecting foreign registrants from a marketplace that is working well on a technical level.