Saturday, March 1, 2008

“Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act of 2008” (APCPA): The Uncle Lyle and Aunt Colleen Test

"We may be middle America, but we aren't stupid!"
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Yesterday's post was total snark--I admit it, but I don't apologize for it. ICA's motives are pretty transparent and not in a good way, either. And the power mongers should realize that not all domainers are going to follow the party line. I'm just more outspoken about it.

However, today I'm setting a different kind of tone by discussing "The Uncle Lyle and Aunt Colleen Test" as it relates to the “Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act of 2008” (APCPA).

Background

Uncle Lyle and Aunt Colleen are real people; however, they also represent a cross section of American folks who use computers in their everyday lives. They know nothing about domaining, parking, web design, web marketing, etc.; for them, computers are a necessary part of modern life, not something that comes naturally to them. They are grandparents, after all, and sometimes their grandchildren have to help them set up their hardware and download their software.

In other words, for the average user, using a computer is like driving a car; one can still drive a car or surf the net without having to know the inner workings of either.

Uncle Lyle loves playing around on the internet; he checks out various financial sites, and he also sells and buys on eBay; he's fairly savvy and knows how to work a search engine. He never does direct navigation in his searches and actually scoffs at the idea.

"I Google or Yahoo," he says. "I use keywords, and I would never type in a URL."

I believe that Uncle Lyle represents the beginning of the end of direct navigation, especially now that Yahoo has begun applying fuzzy logic to its searches. (Can Google be far behind?). Another post for another time.

Lyle also loves emailing the family--in fact, he is the glue that keeps the scattered branches together, although he is sometimes guilty of forwarding "cute" spam. Nothing dangerous, though. Had Uncle Lyle been born 40 years later, he might even be a domainer or involved in some kind of web development field. He has that kind of impulsive and curious personality, which can be both good and bad.

On the other hand, Aunt Colleen came to the Computer Age, kicking and screaming; she wanted nothing to do with the new technology. However, Aunt Colleen is a real estate agent (darn good at it, too), and if she wanted to retain her edge, she would need to learn and embrace technology, so she has learned just what she needs to know to conduct business. Even so, Uncle Lyle sometimes has to help her through minor glitches. But when she's not working, she's not on the computer. For her, the computer = business, not pleasure.

“Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act of 2008” (APCPA)

Both Uncle Lyle and Aunt Colleen will have a vested interest in seeing this bill passed. Every time they boot up and check their emails, they have to wade through a bunch of spam, much of it smutty and embarrassing. Moreover, they keep getting urgent messages from phishers pretending to be their bank, credit union, etc., thus wasting precious minutes trying to figure what is legit or not.

If a message does look legit, and they link onto the site, they may not see that the URL is a typo of an actual TM business and might inadvertently give out their password to a scammer. These phishers are getting more sophisticated, and actual businesses do email their customers and do provide links for their customers, which, of course, muddies the waters.

I don't know if Uncle Lyle has ever fallen for the El Gordo Lotto type of scheme, but judging from the number of Lotto scam emails I receive, I suspect that plenty of people still fall for this old con game.

Anyone who has lost a lot of money because of an internet scam would praise the “Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act of 2008,” busily writing to his or her legislators to pass the bill ASAP. People are just suffering from information overload and want it to stop; this bill seems to offer that possibility.

Here's another thing: Uncle Lyle hates parking pages. Landing on one p*sses him off. At first, he thought they were just an extension of Google or Yahoo!, but he soon discovered that some of the links in these pages led him to some pretty pushy sales sites, complete with pop-ups and pop-unders. When Lyle does a search, he is looking for (1) a company that he knows and trusts or (2) actual content from a reliable source. He is NOT looking for a parking page.

Uncle Lyle still equates domaining with cybersquatting, even after I tried explaining the difference. He gives me a "pass" because he knows and loves me, but I suspect he wonders if I, too, will end up on the dark side. Like it or not, this is the perception.

Uncle Lyle and Aunt Colleen are not even going going to be aware of "the establishment of a parallel domain name infringement enforcement scheme that is more expansive and more onerous than the existing, highly effective remedies available to trademark owners through ICANN’s UDRP process and U.S. trademark law" (ICA page) being slipped into the language of the bill. Even if they did know, their attitude might be, "So what?"

They won't care if you lose your million-dollar domains. Furthermore, they won't care if the value of your domains drops dramatically.

You want to know why? You never gave the Uncle Lyles and Aunt Colleens of the world a reason to care; you have spent the last 15-20 years working and lurking in the shadows. You have ignored obvious problems: the cybersquatters, the phishers, the scammers. Your auction houses continued to auction off TM typo domains, and ICANN has turned a blind eye to the way the domain deletion process has morphed into a cash cow for aftermarket sellers.

You have built your business model on pure greed, ethics be damned.

But now, when your cushy position has been threatened, you have decided to act for the greater good.

Really?

And you really expect support from the average computer user, who, by the way, includes your legislators?

What's more, YOU, yes, YOU have opened a notch for Big Business to sneak in through the legislative back door, and, so they have. They will probably succeed.

I doubt very much if middle America is going to buy into your plight.

Even a few months ago, you might have garnered some outside support for the goals of ICA, before the takeover threat was a reality to your own pricey cyber properties.

But now, ICA just looks like another huge lobbying group, looking out for its own special interests, not for the greater good of the internet.

Uncle Lyle and Aunt Colleen will be able to see through that.

And Big Business will win because the bill, as it stands, will have the support it needs, from both Big Business, who is richer and greedier than domainers, and from middle America who just wants the spam and scams to stop.

To whom do you think your legislators will listen?

Kumbaya.

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