FBI takes down British site in a bizarre case of mistaken identity

A Brighton-based firm was shocked to learn its domain was seized by the US authorities last week

The FBI seized and removed the website of a British advertising company last week after falsely believing the platform was caught up in its investigation into illegal prostitution activities in the US.

Designate, a Brighton-based ad agency, learned it had stopped receiving external emails on Wednesday 19 February, with its IT team learning shortly afterwards that the FBI had taken down its domain name entirely.

After contacting the US authorities, it emerged that the removal was a case of mistaken identity, with its website taken down among a wave of hundreds of others that were being investigated for prostitution activities.

Having first pleaded with a special agent in the Department for Homeland Security (DHS), Designate then liaised with a US Attorney and a District Court in New York. The company signed a document acknowledging they had no part in the investigation, and that it would waive its right to claim against the US government.

“You really couldn’t make it up,” said Designate partner Jason Triandafyllou

“We now have our domain name back, emails are coming through again, and once the updates have washed their way through the system, everyone will be able to visit our website again.

“Aside from the reputational damage and loss of potential business this has potentially resulted in, I guess we can count ourselves lucky that we are not an ecommerce business. Because we might now be entirely out of business.”

Designate was expressly shocked to learn the FBI and US authorities had full jurisdiction to seize its .com domain name, regardless of the fact the company is based outside of the US. 

Triandafyllou added that the incident highlighted the prospective “evils of state control” from non-hostile countries such as “our best buddies” in the US, as opposed to the fear that surrounds states such as China and Russia. 

He also used the mishap to stress the post-Brexit irony that his company would have to revert to a .co.uk domain in order to escape the remit of the US.

Featured Resources

Defeating ransomware with unified security from WatchGuard

How SMBs can defend against the onslaught of ransomware attacks

Free download

The IT expert’s guide to AI and content management

How artificial intelligence and machine learning could be critical to your business

Free download

The path to CX excellence

Four stages to thrive in the experience economy

Free download

Becoming an experience-based business

Your blueprint for a strong digital foundation

Free download

Recommended

Wells Fargo taps Microsoft and Google for digital transformation drive
digital transformation

Wells Fargo taps Microsoft and Google for digital transformation drive

16 Sep 2021
Salesforce offers to relocate employees out of Texas
Policy & legislation

Salesforce offers to relocate employees out of Texas

13 Sep 2021
Amazon to pay college tuition fees for 750,000 front-line employees
Careers & training

Amazon to pay college tuition fees for 750,000 front-line employees

10 Sep 2021
Amazon, Microsoft won $50m in military contracts after Google's Project Maven exit, report
public sector

Amazon, Microsoft won $50m in military contracts after Google's Project Maven exit, report

9 Sep 2021

Most Popular

What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

8 Sep 2021
Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit
exploits

Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit

14 Sep 2021
Google takes down map showing homes of 111,000 Guntrader customers
data breaches

Google takes down map showing homes of 111,000 Guntrader customers

2 Sep 2021