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Move Your Domain Day: A Chat with EFF & Namecheap

Namecheap’s Move Your Domain Day is back! Our sixth annual edition of the event happens on March 6 this year.
It’s never been more important to fight to maintain free and open access to the Internet. As more entities move to censor the Internet, we at Namecheap believe it’s increasingly important to stand up against those who would limit your access to everything the Internet offers. Move Your Domain Day is a big part of that.
Move Your Domain Day offers customers the chance to move their domain to Namecheap at a very low price. In addition, a percentage of transfer fees will be donated to EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to aid in their efforts in fighting for a free and open internet.

A Discussion with EFF’s Legal Director and Namecheap’s CEO

To help highlight the importance of digital freedom and net neutrality, we caught up with  EFF’s Legal Director Corynne McSherry & Namecheap’s CEO Rick Kirkendall for a chat. We talked about Move Your Domain Day and why Internet freedom should be top of everybody’s agenda in 2018. So let’s get down to business!

What is Move Your Name Day and how it can help Internet freedom?

Rick: The Internet and the freedoms it can deliver are constantly under threat. As a company whose ideals are based on the core principles of privacy, neutrality, anti-censorship and free speech, this is our way of doing our part to help carry that forward. Since its inception, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been a pioneer, and at the very forefront fighting for internet rights.
Our goal here is to continue to fund that fight through this initiative. If we can achieve that and help educate our customers about the importance of these issues, and at the same time same save them some money, it’s a win/win and a great use of our dollars. Over the past five years we’ve raised more than $350,000 for EFF and hopefully this year we can add significantly to that total.
Corynne: We’re grateful for the support from Move Your Domain Day. Every dollar helps EFF fight for online rights in the courts, empower grassroots action, and develop tools to enhance your privacy and free expression online.

Internet censorship comes in many forms such as building online borders and fragmenting the networks. As recently as December 14, FCC voted to reverse Net Neutrality rules. What are the main negative consequences of such efforts, particularly for small businesses & entrepreneurs?

Corynne: The FCC’s decision to abdicate its traditional role in supporting net neutrality principles is very dangerous for the entire Internet ecosystem.
For small businesses and entrepreneurs, in particular, it means they are likely to face unfair barriers as they try to reach users. Rather than being able to compete with incumbents based on the quality of service and price, business owners will have to pay ISPs extra to gain access to their customers. And that is assuming they can get into the fast lane at all. It may be hard for them to find investors for the same reason. And users, for their part, may never know what new and innovative services they are missing.
Rick: I agree with Corynne. When it comes to Net Neutrality, small businesses are at risk. If Net Neutrality is no longer guaranteed, the big corporations win, as they will undoubtedly build a wall around their market share thereby ensuring that the playing field will no longer be equal.
Faster speeds and open access will go to the highest bidder. Part of what has made the internet so powerful for new entrepreneurs and small businesses is being able to compete with anyone, anywhere, no matter their size, because the barrier to entry has been so low.
The end of Net Neutrality changes all of this and will, unfortunately, make it much harder and much more expensive to compete. This is a danger to innovation and, in the end, the consumer, with less choice, less innovation, and higher prices, will bear the brunt.

While the global tech community is arguably more aware of the major issues, do you think that Internet freedom is something that the general public takes for granted? What is the level of awareness and what can we do to protect an open & free internet?

Corynne: There is a greater public awareness now, by far, than there was just a few years ago. When Burger King starts making commercials about net neutrality, you’ve hit the mainstream! But we need to do more.
I find that once you take a little time to break it down, most Internet users get it, and understand why it’s important. The trick is to give them a path to take action. This campaign is one way to do that. If they are in the US, I hope they will also go to act.eff.org, and use our tool to let their representatives know they want real net neutrality protections restored.
Rick: What alarms me is the way the core issues and ideals that support internet freedom are being politicized and diluted by those that have the most to gain from this.
We need to continue to bring awareness as to why these issues should matter to everyone, not just techies and continue to shine the light on the negative consequences of not protecting the internet—a powerful and impactful medium—and what this will really mean for each and every one of us.

What about internet privacy? International laws have yet to catch up with the evolving need for privacy that comes with new digital technologies and there is a need to extend our privacy rights into the digital world. What worries you the most about today’s landscape?  

Rick: What worries me most is just how acceptable it has become to be tracked, watched, and categorized all in the name of convenience. It’s a very strange phenomenon
Looking back, 10 or even 5 years ago, if you would have asked most people if they would be OK with their location information, browser history, and private conversations being consumed and used by both private companies and/or governments, they would have had a major problem with that.

This is no longer the case. It’s now considered normal, with this level of acceptance accelerating. We need to help people understand not only the impact of this change but also that once you give up these rights and protections, it’s very hard to get them back. This, again, is why it’s so important to continue to do whatever we can to educate people on these issues.
Corynne: That’s absolutely true! Where to begin? There are far too many threats to our digital privacy. Leading the pack is government mass surveillance, which EFF has been challenging in court since 2006. But we have also seen the emergence of what we call “street-level surveillance” —the myriad ways that local governments and law enforcement track and monitor our activities and then store and use that data without our knowledge or permission.
On the consumer side, we know that many companies collect all kinds of information about us as we move around the Internet, again often without our knowledge or permission. EFF’s technologists are working on a number of initiatives, including Privacy Badger, which helps you identify (and block) many forms of consumer surveillance.

What are the other main initiatives that your respective organizations are involved in to help in the fight to protect Internet freedom?

Corynne: EFF is fighting for your digital rights, on many fronts; my answer could take a week! So I’ll just touch on a few more.
Firstly, we’re challenging a dangerous law that makes it illegal to tinker with your own devices if you have to break a digital lock to do it—even if you are doing so for an otherwise lawful reason, like researching whether there’s a security flaw.
Secondly, we’re fighting private censorship in the US and abroad—meaning, efforts by private platforms to police their users’ expression. If our experience has taught us anything, it’s that we have no reason to trust the powerful to differentiate between speech that should be protected, and speech that should be erased.
Finally, we’ve launched a series of investigations into government use of malware to spy on citizens around the world.
Rick: We believe that everybody has a right to be online, a right to privacy online, and a right to equality online. As we continue to grow, we look forward to contributing to a free and open Internet through both education and empowerment.
We’re now focusing on how our current product suite, and our new products and tools, can help to empower Internet freedom. Some examples of our privacy-focused products are our Private Email and domain privacy products. Soon we will be launching a VPN solution along with other tools that we believe will be valuable in the fight for Internet freedom.
We also want to make it easy to share your ideas and voice online with products that can help anyone to get set up quickly. A great example of this is EasyWP, our WordPress product that allows people to set up their own blog in a matter of seconds.

At Namecheap, we are proud supporters of Internet freedom. Freedom means many things to different people (such as walking around barefoot on a sandy beach). What is your definition of freedom?

Rick: In the very simplest of terms, being able to share an idea (that adheres to basic human and animal rights), or an ideal online without a single hesitation as to whether or not I will be persecuted somehow for it now or in the future. Without strong privacy, free speech and anti-censorship laws, this is not a guarantee.
Corynne: For me, it’s the right and ability to speak, create, tinker, share and organize—for me and for everyone else, because none of us are free until all of us are free.

What’s Next?

If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to check out a typical day in the life of EFF’s Corynne McSherry.
And don’t forget to check out Namecheap’s Move Your Domain Day, where a percentage of all domain transfers will go directly to support EFF’s work to protect our digital freedoms.

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