GoDaddy reviews : Advise I try GoDaddy?? Should I Require a Court Order to Reveal Info?

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Should I require a court order to reveal info on domains I own/operate? Over the years I have been asked for information on domains by the FBI, Sheriffs, Police, etc., and have always routinely volunteered the information without asking for a court order. I know NP has the world's greatest legal minds in the domain world, so am I being a complete moron by volunteering information to police about domains, customers, and fake users of my domains?.

Overall I have found that they are *extremely* appreciative of the help. As mentioned in another thread, a few minutes for some of us can mean a lot to an underfunded investigation. I have always made an effort to make sure it is somebody from the Sheriffs, Police, FBI, etc. I usually require confirmation from somebody else in government, etc., but I always generally cooperate without a court order.

The obvious argument against is privacy etc., while the argument for is the cooperation with a police, sheriff, or FBI investigation. Should I require a court order when the police come knocking... even though I like police... and like liberty too? I like to help catch the bad guys, but I also like not getting sued...

Edit: I do discuss getting a court order with them before I say "nah, never mind, here is some interesting info...".


Comments (24)

This is by far not a legally valid comment of any sort, but my personal opinion of the subject.

If you have verified the ID of the person requesting the information and can say with certainty that the individual is a representative of a government organization, i'd comply and help them as much as I possibly can.

The flip side, if information is asked that could possibly implicate you as a contributor to some wrong doing, i'd require a court order to be served before I "volunteer" information.

Again, this is reallyI'm sure that >>JBerryhill<<, labrocca and DNQ have a legally more valid statement to make..


Comment #1

I do help as much as I can, and there is never anything involving me other than being the owner of the domain, or operator and provider of services for the domain. Usually it is about either a user of email etc, or a "fake user", like somebody posting that they represent one of my domains and then committing fraudulent acts.


Comment #2

Ok, I have to ask, why are so many different policing entities coming after you?..

Comment #3

I have been domaining since 1996. No contacts in the last year, but over the years I have been contacted by various agencies. I usually try to help, but I was wondering if there is liability on my part when a representative of the law asks for information without a court order. They always offer to provide one.


Comment #4

I was wondering this as well. I have yet in all my year had a contact by authorities for information.

Also make sure you have a solid privacy rights policy. Giving up the information imho might open you to a lawsuit from someone being investigated. Just cover yer butt at all times...

Comment #5

I would ask an attorney.

Remember the Police are not looking after your interest when they contact you. They may not be looking to prosecute you but they have their own interests which may be counter to yours...

Comment #6

I agree with Diabro you should really ask an attorney. What you should do really depends on the laws in your country. You could for instance be breaking confidentiality laws by divulging the information without a court order.

The reason a court order would get around such laws is that the law enforcement agency in question would have to provide a reason why they require the information to the judge in the courts who would have to agree the need of the information.

If however you are not breaking such laws then I personally would cooperate...

Comment #7

If they didn't read you your rights then they can't prosecute you on it anyhow... right? It seems even if they could blame you for some odd reason (because of what someone did on your site) the evidence they found would have to thrown out. This is a completely unprofessional opinion, however. Even if someone says they are an expert on this site I would definitely seek real legal council if you are worried...

Comment #8

I would ask for a court order, at least that way you would "probably" be more protected from any further problems, liability etc.

If, as you said - they always offer to provide one, there's probably a very good reason for them to do so.

Not a legal statement, just my opinion.


Comment #9

I do not think they have to read you your rights. If they ask to search you and you say OK and they find a pound of cocaine they can certainly charge you without having read you your rights.

You gave them permission to search you, which you did not have to do...

Comment #10

What does that mean ? You Make Me Vomit ??.

Its not in the NP Acronym guide


Comment #11

The answer to the OP's question is: "it depends.".

There are so many different levels of investigative powers granted to various agencies, that the answer may change from time to time.

GENERALLY, you're usually not obligated to turn over information without a court order or subpoena. REALISTICALLY, particularly when you have nothing to hide, it's just better to provide information to keep the agencies from spending more time and effort looking at your affairs.

If you get real defensive about sharing information, it usually motivates agencies to take a harder look at you. Even if no problems, it's probably not worth the hassle...

Comment #12

I have always made an effort to cooperate. This is a common problem with people that provide services. Even when there are no services I have had contacts from agencies interested in what others are doing (or pretending to do) with my domains. A sheriff once mentioned that "people like me" tend to ask for court orders to protect themselves... even if they are willing to help.

My TOS state that I cooperate with authorities, and that I sometimes volunteer information when there is a reasonable expectation of illegal activity. I suppose in this litigious world I may be too helpful...


Comment #13

I think it COULD open you up to litigation...

Comment #14

It could open up litigation one way or the other, actually. That and CyberLaw's.

Post are 2 reasons why I said YMMV...

Comment #15

You NEVER open yourself up for litigation for asking for a required court order. That is why they ask nd don't tell.

The cops suing someone for asking for a warrent? No...

Comment #16

I guess it depends on the type of site you run as well.. If for example, you were running a registrar and voluntarily handing over info without court orders, you're customers would crucify you..

If you're running like a proxy or something, it probably doesn't matter. Unless it's a paid anonymity service... there again, your customers might be angry...

Legally speaking.. who knows.. I'd make it very clear on your site that you cooperate fully with all law enforcement requests... But you never know when someone will sue you, regardless of your actions...

Comment #17

Ronald's answer is exactly what I mean: IIRC Verizon once allowed the government access to some of their databases.

Without a search warrant. Something like that...

Comment #18

I just wanted to thank everybody for responding! I started this thread after posting a comment over in the discussion forum, and stating that I had done this for many years (since 1996). After posting in Discussion I asked myself if what I was doing was "wise", so started this thread in legal. I knew I was trying to be helpful to the law, but I was perhaps not exercising the best wisdom and judgment.

It is always nice hearing from others in the field with experience. "No man is an island unto himself". Since coming to NP, it has been a learning experience that I would recommend for anybody, whether they have been domaining and offering services for the last twelve years or just started yesterday.

Thanks again, and I will definitely be more cautious in the future. Cooperative yes, but also cautious. People just love to sue each other.



Comment #19

Maybe I'm just foolish, but it sounds to me like you're being waaaay too accommodating. Why are you surrendering your civil rights just because some guy with a badge asked you to?.

I'm not suggesting you be a jerk about it, but it seems to me that there's nothing wrong with telling them that you don't release information without a warrant/court order.

To be fair, I'm not an attorney and it's entirely possible I'm getting all anti-big brother for nothing...

Comment #20

Do you run a warez site, anonymizer proxy, etc? Seems like a lot of inquries...

In 8 years of running a world-famous cannabis (marijuana) related website, which I since have sold, never did any legal authority ever request information. Never.

And similar was true of the other well known cannabis related websites with no more than a handful of requests between all of them - most being from the Secret Service regarding threats by users against the President and other stupid nonsense like that.

A better question to ask is why your website / service is getting so many inquiries ... and attempt change your operations accordingly to reduce such requests.


Comment #21

I think this was resolved earlier in this thread. Sometimes when you read earlier posts you discover that issues/concerns were resolved by prior posts. Thanks for the comments Ron, but I think this thread is dead, with me admitting that I was not exercising good judgment in previous legal matters.

I have run service related sites since 1996 with tens of thousands of registered users. Whenever you get tens of thousands of users you are bound to have a few bad people in the mix. The sites offering service were either Antique, Christian, or Science/Math in focus...

In general, the advice in this thread was very good. I have perhaps erred in the past on the side of helping authorities. The reason I say "erred" is that by being helpful and not going through legal channels I have not given credit to the rights of those causing troubles (or perceived to be causing troubles), and of course opened myself up to litigation.

So yes, ahem, again, advice taken for going through channels as mentioned earlier in the thread. It is funny how you can do something for 12 years without asking yourself if what you are doing is "wise". Helpful yes, but perhaps not wise.


Comment #22

As a very general principle, the law does not reward the helpful.

As an example, Verizon somehow seems to believe that it needs retroactive immunity from criminal prosecution for having been helpful to the current administration's unwarranted civilian spying program.

Let's say you run an apartment building. The police show up and ask you if you could loan them a key so that they can take a look around an apartment belonging to one of your tenants. Absent a warrant, you are now complicit in a violation of someone's Fourth Amendment rights.

Now, no analogy is perfect, but the assumption that law enforcement is itself engaged in lawful behavior is not always correct...

Comment #23

Bingo. What you say/disclose/admit to may and will be used against you. If you are approached by a government agency and you supply information, you should understand that you may be opening yourself to not only civil, but also criminal liability. At the very least, you should be contacting an attorney who is well-versed in white collar criminal law before you make any statements...

Comment #24

This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.


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