The Globe and Mail published an embarrassing feature story on the weekend focusing on terror groups' use of the Internet and a "Canadian connection." A story on terror group use of the Internet would have made for an interesting (albeit unoriginal) story, so it appears that the Globe tried to generate greater interest in the story by adding a Canadian connection. The article begins with "Welcome to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia – pivotal battleground in the global jihad."
Why does the Globe think Yarmouth is a pivotal battleground in the global jihad? Because Register.com, a leading domain name registrar, uses Yarmouth as the base for those want to register domain names anonymously. It is difficult to overstate the extent to which this claim is misguided.
First, just because the registrant information is not posted publicly on the WHOIS database, does not mean that the information has not been collected. Indeed, the information is collected by the registrar (along with payment information) and can be accessed by law enforcement under the appropriate circumstances (typically a court order). In other words, these are not untrackable domains, but rather domains that shield the identity of the registrant from broad public view, akin to an unlisted phone number.
Second, offering proxy or anonymous registrations is not a Canadian issue at all. Dozens of domain name registrars around the world offer the same services. To suggest that this is a Canadian-specific issue is very misleading.
Third, the article mistakenly states that the terror sites reside on servers in Yarmouth. Of course, that is simply not the case – the location of a domain name registration need not have any connection with the location of a web server that actually hosts the site.
Fourth, it is telling that the story does not include a single mention of WHOIS related issues, including the long policy process aimed at providing registrants with greater privacy protection (and thereby eliminating the need for these services).
For a paper of the Globe's calibre, this is inexcusable.