Owner of FamilyAlbum.com finds his domain was re-registered by another GoDaddy customer.
The (previous) owner of FamilyAlbum.com was surprised to find that he no longer owned the domain, which had not expired. He contacted GoDaddy to task what happened and received the following response:
On 12/19/2006 we received a third party complaint of invalid domain contact information in the Whois database for this domain. Whenever we receive a complaint, we are required by ICANN regulations to initiate an investigation as to whether the contact data displaying in the Whois database is valid data or not. If we find that there is invalid or missing data, we contact both the registrant and the account holder and inform them to update the information.
The contact information for the domain which displayed in the Whois database was indeed invalid. On 12/19/2006 we sent a notice to you at the admin/tech contact email address and the account email address informing you of invalid data in breach of the domain registration agreement and advising you to update the information or risk cancellation of the domain. The contact information was not updated within the specified period of time and we canceled the domain. The domain has subsequently been purchased by another party. You will need to contact them for any further inquiries regarding the domain.
If you find any invalid contact information for this domain, please respond to this email with evidence of the specific contact information you have found to be invalid on the Whois record for the domain name. Examples would be a bounced email or returned postal mail. If you have a bounced email, please attach or forward with your reply or in the case of returned postal mail, scan the returned letter and attach to your email reply or please send it to:
Attn: Domain Services
14455 N Hayden Rd
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
I was surprised that GoDaddy took this action without contacting the customer by phone or postal mail. To be clear, it is an ICANN requirement that Whois data be accurate. I am constantly frustrated by inaccurate Whois information and certainly think this goal is admirable. Few registrars do anything about it and often let people register domains with bogus phone numbers such as 555-555-1234 or email addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is fair for a domain registration to be revoked for incorrect information, but what should the registrar do to verify the Whois information? Is sending an email enough? People frequently change email addresses and updating Whois is probably not high on their priority list (at least for non-savvy domain owners). If the phone number of postal address are correct, should the registrar still delete the registration?
Domain names are valuable. I think it’s reasonable to expect that the registrar will try to contact the domain owner by phone or postal mail at a minimum, assuming the contact information isn’t clearly bogus. The message from GoDaddy to the customer seems to indicate that they only tried e-mailing him.
Another concern is who now owns the domain. Whois shows GoDaddy’s Whois protection service. But did a third party actually buy this domain, or does GoDaddy actually own it now? It’s impossible to prove, but it appears that GoDaddy might be holding the domain. The domain currently resolves to a GoDaddy parking page. If someone else registered the domain they would likely move it to a parking service that generated revenue for the registrant, not GoDaddy. (Of course, it’s possible that the new owner simply hasn’t changed the DNS yet).
Either way, this should be a warning to all GoDaddy customers. Personally, I would expect my registrar to do more than contact me via e-mail about an issue as important as this. Over the next week I’m going to contact various registrars to ask them what they would do in this same case (similar to what CNET did over the Seclists.org fiasco). Look for their responses soon.
UPDATE 2/28/07 – GoDaddy Responds