Deadline public comments on ICANN whois policy
Under rules established by ICANN, any entity that registers a domain name has to provide contact information that can be queried through the WHOIS service – by any data user and for any legitimate purpose. Data users remain anonymous, and there is no enforcement of the few limitations imposed on using the data.
This policy is currently up for review. Three separate task forces are dealing with access modes to WHOIS data, with a review of data elements, and with data accuracy enforcement. Preliminary reports from these Task Forces are open for public comment, until 5 July 2004.
On access and data elements, representatives from ICANN’s Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC, representing non-commercial domain name holders) and At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC, advocating the interests of individual Internet users) have worked to replace unaccountable and anonymous access to sensitive data by a model that is designed to balance data users’ and data subjects’ interests. Core design goals here are to enable accountability of data users, and to make sure that WHOIS does not become a tool exclusively available to intellectual property-holders and other corporate interests.
Under the proposed model, a limited set of technically relevant, non-sensitive data would continue to be available to anonymous data users for any purpose. Access to sensitive data (such as individual registrants’ home addresses and phone numbers) would only be granted to known users – identified, for example, by a public key certificate -, for known purposes. Identities and purposes of data users would be made available to registrants. Each time a data user accesses a domain name holder’s sensitive data, the domain name holder would receive a note about that.
The notification component of this model, in particular, is meeting opposition from those groups that represent WHOIS data users’ interests within ICANN.
On accuracy, data user representatives have produced a draft set of ‘best practices’. Domain name retailers (registrars), NCUC, and ALAC have rejected this preliminary report, on the basis that many of the recommendations contained there are either unclear, or would be harmful to domain name registrants. Under the proposed practices, extended vacations or slow postal service could be enough to lose a domain name registrations.
Registrars have submitted an alternative proposal which would, in the view of ALAC and NCUC, provide a much better basis for a constructive way forward.
Public Voice special file ‘commenting made easy’ http://www.thepublicvoice.org/take_action/default.html
ICANN whois issues page: http://gnso.icann.org/issues/whois-privacy/index.shtml
Non-Commercial Users’ Constituency http://www.ncdnhc.org/
At-Large Advisory Committee
(Contribution by Thomas Roessler, FITUG, Germany)