Final Report of the GNSO
Council's Whois Task Force
6 February 2003
Table of Contents
V. Other Input
Received in Response to the Final Report
The WHOIS Task Force has presented several reports which have contributed to the understanding of uses of WHOIS. In December, 2002, the Task Force published its Policy Report, proposing both consensus policies and enhancements in ICANN’s enforcement of existing obligations in two areas: Accuracy and Bulk Access. Further work was recommended on both of these areas, and on searchability and consistency of data elements across all TLDs. That report was discussed by the DNSO's Names Council at its Amsterdam meeting, and reopened for further comment by constituencies and the Internet community. In addition, the Council established a WHOIS Implementation Committee, whose work was to be completed by January 31, 2003.
The present report is the result of the WHOIS Task Force's further outreach, and presents policy recommendations and recommended changes in ICANN enforcement on the topics of WHOIS Data Accuracy and Bulk Access.
The other issues discussed by the Task Force will be presented in separate “issues reports” that will form the basis for further policy-development -- either by the present WHOIS Task Force, or by a different appropriate body appointed by the Council. The Issues Reports will be published for discussion at the ICANN meetings in Rio de Janeiro, in March 2003.
The recommendations in the present report are based on those made in the Task Force's Policy Report, on the comments received in response to that report (see chapter 3), and on the work of the GNSO Council's WHOIS Implementation Committee.
For the most part, detailed discussion of the individual recommendations can be found in the Policy Report, and is not repeated in this report. The present document gives detailed discussions only in those areas in which the Task Force has changed or amended its earlier recommendations in response to the comments, and in response to the Implementation Committee's recommendations.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of the WHOIS Task Force.
These two policies match the alternative wording proposed in the Implementation Committee's report, sections 1 and 2, which was accepted by the WHOIS Task Force. Further comments and additions are marked by underlining.
A. At least annually, a registrar must present to the Registrant the current WHOIS information, and remind the registrant that provision of false WHOIS information can be grounds for cancellation of their domain name registration. Registrants must review their WHOIS data, and make any corrections.
B. When registrations are deleted on the basis of submission of false contact data or non-response to registrar inquiries, the redemption grace period -- once implemented -- should be applied. However, the redeemed domain name should be placed in registrar hold status until the registrant has provided updated WHOIS information to the registrar-of-record.
The Task Force observes that the purpose of this policy is to make sure that the redemption process cannot be used as a tool to bypass registrar's contact correction process.
There are no substantial changes to to the policies contained in section 3.2 of the Policy Report. However, the extensive discussion presented in that report has been removed in this document. Additionally, some technical changes proposed by ICANN's General Counsel have been incorporated.
A. Use of bulk access WHOIS data for marketing should not be permitted. The Task Force therefore recommends that the obligations contained in the relevant provisions of the RAA be modified to eliminate the use of bulk access WHOIS data for marketing purposes. The obligation currently expressed in section 126.96.36.199 of the RAA could, for instance, be changed to read as follows (changed language underlined):
"Registrar's access agreement shall require the third party to agree not to use the data to allow, enable, or otherwise support any marketing activities, regardless of the medium used. Such media include but are not limited to e-mail, telephone, facsimile, postal mail, SMS, and wireless alerts."
The bulk-access provision contained in 188.8.131.52 of the RAA would then become inapplicable.
B. Section 184.108.40.206 of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement currently describes an optional clause of registrars' bulk access agreements, which disallows further resale or redistribution of bulk WHOIS data by data users. The use of this clause shall be made mandatory.
The recommendations below are based on chapter 3.1.I of the Policy Report.
By following the procedures recommended above, registrars can improve the accuracy of contact details in Whois. These procedures do not address all situations that may arise requiring registrar action to address inaccurate or unreliable Whois data, and are not intended to replace registrars' obligations in their accreditation agreements to investigate and correct inaccuracies.
(This recommendation is based on part 3 of the WHOIS Implementation Committee's work.)
C. Input received both from the Implementation Committee and in public comments indicates a strong desire in parts of the community to extend the 15 day period currently specified in section 220.127.116.11 of the RAA. The concerns expressed were based on the interpretation that the 15 day period was mandatory.
Communication received from ICANN's General Counsel indicates that the "current contractual structure of requiring the registrar to retain the right to cancel if the customer fails to respond in 15 days, but not requiring the registrar to exercise this right is intended to give the registrar the flexibility to use good judgment to determine what action should be taken upon a customer's failure to respond to an inquiry about a Whois inaccuracy." This interpretation of the contractual language seems to address the concerns raised.
Given the flexibility provided, the Task Force is not making a policy recommendation on this issue.
D. ICANN should modify and supplement its May 10, 2002 registrar advisory as follows:
(This is a new recommendation, based on the Implementation Committees' suggestions and the Task Force's consultation with the General Counsel.)
The WHOIS Task Force recommends that the implementation and adoption of the recommendations made in this report be monitored by the ICANN staff with appropriate reports to the GNSO Council, consistent with the PDP.
In considering the task force's Policy Report on Accuracy and Bulk Access at its meeting on December 14, 2002, the Names Council adopted a resolution providing in part as follows:
See http://www.dnso.org/dnso/notes/20021214.NCteleconf-minutes.html for full text of the resolution.
The committee created by this resolution (hereafter referred to as the Whois Implementation Committee) subsequently convened and ultimately adopted a final report which is incorporated into this document by reference. The following are the comments of the Task Force on the report of the Whois Implementation Committee.
The Whois Implementation Committee took a narrow approach to its mission and only offered views on four of the recommendations contained in the Task Force's Policy Report. In general, it responded to the recommendations that appeared to it to require action by registrars or registries, and not to those that were primarily or initially directed to ICANN staff or others.
1. The Implementation Committee offered its views on the Recommendation contained Section 3.1 (III)(A) of the Policy Report:
The Implementation Committee concluded that this recommendation was implementable. It suggested that, in order to improve the feasibility of implementation, the text of the recommendation be changed to the following:
The Task Force believes that this change to its earlier recommendation should be ACCEPTED. It is certainly consistent with the intent of the recommendation contained in the Policy Report and provides registrars with clearer direction about the actions they should take. This recommendation is based on the input of the Implementation Committee whch included several registrars.
2. The Implementation Committee offered its views on Recommendation 3.1 (III) (B) of the Policy Report:
The Implementation Committee deemed this recommendation to be implementable. It suggested that, in order to improve the feasibility of implementation, the text of the recommendation be changed to the following:
The Task Force can accept this change to its earlier recommendation subject to the concern stated in the Task Force Final Report that this implementation (which drops the words "accurate and verified") must not allow the redemption process to be used as a tool to bypass the registrar's contact correction process. This is particularly important with respect to registrations in this category, which have already been ordered deleted due to provision of inaccurate contact data or failure to respond to a query. Overall, this implementation is consistent with the intent of the recommendation in the Policy Report and more clearly specifies what has to happen before a redeemed domain name is placed back in the zone file once it has been removed from there.
3. The Implementation Committee offered its views on part of Recommendation 3.1 (I)(B)(2) of the Policy Report:
The Implementation Committee did not offer any views on the first sentence of this recommendation, presumably because it was directed to ICANN, not to registrars directly. It did, however, comment on the remainder of the recommendation, apparently treating it as directed to registrars. It concluded that this part of the recommendation was "NOT implementable in its current form." However, it did suggest replacement text,which is presented as "implementable".. The suggested replacement text is as follows:
The Task Force believes that this change to its earlier recommendation should be ACCEPTED in large part. Specifically:
4. The Implementation Committee provided its views on Recommendation 3.2 (II)(1) of the Policy Report:
The Implementation Committee construed this as a recommendation that "registrars modify their bulk WHOIS access agreements to eliminate the use of data for marketing purposes." In fact, the Task Force's recommendation is that registrars be REQUIRED to make this change in their bulk access agreements. The Implementation Committee did not recommend any changes to the revisions to the RAA in this regard that were suggested by the Task Force in its Policy Report.
The Implementation Committee concluded that "there is a need to clarify the definition of "marketing purposes". This may require a small working group to define, possibly just in the form of examples (but not limited to) of marketing activities covered." The Task Force agrees with this observation.
The Task Force withholds comment on other aspects of the Implementation Committee's report that do not go directly to implementation of the Task Force's recommendations.
The Policy Report was open for comments between December 1 until December 8, 2002. Following ICANN's Amsterdam meetings and the Names Council conference held at these meetings, there was another opportunity for public comment from December 23, 2002, until January 10, 2003. The present section summarizes the comments received during these time periods.
I. Overview of all comments
2002 Dec 01
2002 Dec 02
2002 Dec 04
2002 Dec 05
2002 Dec 06
2002 Dec 08
2002 Dec 09
2002 Dec 23
2002 Dec 30
2003 Jan 03
2003 Jan 07
2003 Jan 08
2003 Jan 09
2003 Jan 10
II. Summary of relevant comments
George Kirikos is concerned about the 15 day time period "as it might not allow sufficient time to investigate the alleged inaccuracies." Mr. Kirikos points to holidays, illness, and other letgitimate reasons why a domain name holder may not be able to respond to an accuracy inquiry in a timely manner. He suggests that there should be multiple attempts to contact a registrant. Also, Mr. Kirikos proposes to put domain names on hold for "at least a few months" before they are deleted due to inaccuracy of contact information. Verification processes could be outsourced.
As an additional means to mitigate the problems he observes, Mr. Kirikos suggests that registrars should offer registrants an opportunity to periodically verify the accuracy of their contact data. Domain names associated with these verified and accurate data would then be put onto a "white list", and would not be subject to accuracy inquiries.
Alexander Svensson asks for further clarification of the proposed "functional definition" of "inaccurate or unreliable contact data", "e.g. whether a registrant must be reachable through all means of contact all the time." Mr. Svensson "strongly supports" the dissenting opinion of the GA representatives concerning the 15 day period, and argues that the period "should not be the primary means to stop overtly fraudulent websites, as this is a task which should be left to law enforcement authorities." He favors an extension of the 15 day period, and suggests a hold period before the eventual deletion of a domain name due to accuracy complaints.
Mr. Svensson also points the task force to statistics of postal delivery failures gathered during the at-large elections 2000.
Mr. Svensson agrees with the recommendation to "eliminate the use of bulk access WHOIS data for marketing purposes and the consideration of an enforced restriction of bulk access to a well-defined group of legitimate users, respecting applicable national laws."
On behalf of the gTLD constituency, Jeff Neumann formally requests that no action be taken at the Names Council meeting on 14 December 2002, due to a lack of time to "receive adequate and constructive feedback from the Internet community as a whole."
This comment was submitted by Bill Weinman, the author of a WHOIS client (BWwhois). Mr. Weinman reports that he had to remove his telephone number from the public WHOIS directory in order to stop nightly telephone calls, and demands that there be a "provision for individuals to keep their personal phone numbers secret."
This comment was submitted by Siegfried Langenbach. He observes that, from his experience, most allegations of false data are "false or at least a kind of attack." His own registrar business insists that allegations of false data are proven by a return letter which shows that an address is indeed unusable. According to this comment, "the standard form at internic is of no use if ICANN people just let the messages be forwarded to the registrars without having a check." Mr. Langenbach suggests that domain names with false data be put on hold, and that their WHOIS reports be marked accordingly. In his conclusion, Mr. Langenbach demands that "it should be imposed to those starting the process to prove that the address is wrong, not the other way around."
Concerning bulk access, Mr. Langenbach points to possible issues with applicable law outside the US.
These comments were submitted by "a longtime net user" identifying himself as "der Mouse." The comment criticizes the Task Force's report (in particular section 3.1.I.A.4) as being web-centric; a web-based form is not considered an acceptable substitute for a port-43 server.
It is also suggested that the proposed web form for submitting accuracy complaints should be replaced by an e-mail address.
A distinction is suggested between "honest mistakes" and outdated data on the one hand, and "blatantly fraudulent data" on the other hand. No need for a 15 day delay is seen in cases in which no valid address information ("n/a") and an invalid telephone number are given. It is suggested that registrars should be able to "effectively shut down such domains during any delay period that is present."
The commenter supports the notion that registrant data should only be available for marketing purposes on an opt-in basis. Recommendation 3.2.II.B.2 (ineligibility for future bulk access upon breach of license; this is a mid-term work item) is characterized as a "most rudimentary" provision. The commenter sees no reason why ICANN should impose any limit on fees for bulk access.
He sees no need for the bulk access agreement provision currently mandated by RAA 18.104.22.168 (high-volume processes), and suggests that "if the desire is to prevent interverence with oeprations, the provision should prohibit interference with operations, regardless of how caused."
The comment then goes on to address individual arguments made in a number of comments received by the Task Force in response to the interim report.
In this comment, Steve A. Mattin reports that his WHOIS contact information has been "repeatedly screwed up in the past, resulting in multiple accounts with inaccurate information." He identifies database maintainers -- "for example NS MAKING UP contact email addresses" -- and registrars as sources for these errors, and criticizes the practice of assigning new NIC handles fo the same individual as "multiplying my problems in maintaining accurate info."
While Mr. Nattin is willing to take responsibility for data he enters into the system, he is unwilling to bear the consequences of errors made by others. For this reason, he opposes to automatic sanctions.
Mr. Nattin supports the free availability of accurate WHOIS data for non-bulk users. For bulk access, he suggests that data users should be charged "commercial rates" like $10 per address. "The income generated from 'bulk' users should be used to hire 'real people' to help fix/maintain the accuracy of the data (and therefore, it's marketing value)," Mr. Nattin concludes.
This comment was submitted by William C Jones, who identifies himself as the owner of the domain insecurity.org. Mr. Jones writes that he "submitted the most complete factual information that [he] could get away with while still trying to protect [his] privacy", while making sure that he can still be contacted by telephone, e-mail and regular postal mail. Mr. Jones expresses a strong feeling that the WHOIS database "MUST be kept public and must be accurate." He quotes "research" which indicates that "people who provide false or misleading information for the WHOIS Registry should NOT be allowed to keep their domains."
Joop Teernstra warns that "15 days without a response is not a sufficient time period to establish a material breach of a registration agreement in case of an WHOIS accuracy inquiry." He also observes that "the accuracy complaint procedure can be abused ... to harrass bona fide ... registrants", and may even be a tool for "robbing" a domain name. He suggests a "postal response period" of 30 days, and suggests that at least two warning e-mails should be sent to the registrant.
These elaborate comments were submitted by Kathryn A. Kleiman "as an individual, small business owner, and political speaker." Ms. Kleiman addresses the following points in great detail:
Ms. Kleiman also proposes that the Task Force's recommendations on WHOIS accuracy should be tested in a "clearly commercial gTLD" first, and that "special issues that apply to individuals and political organizations in other gTLDs" should be considered later.
This comment was submitted by Vittorio Bertola. He starts by observing that, while accuracy of data in the WHOIS database may be desirable, some degree of inaccuracy is unavoidable for a variety of reasons, including: burdensome procedures for updating data; the use of "minor or major alterations of contact data" as a tool to avoid spamming and personal harassment; special risks for political speakers; "the usual complexity of the world." Mr. Bertola concludes that "automatically connecting inaccurate data [...] with a fraudulent intent or unlawful behaviour is not per se acceptable."
Mr. Bertola believes that the 15-day deadline is too short, and suggests a number of steps registrars and registries should take when receiving a complaint about the accuracy of contact data associated with a certain domain name: First, attempts should be made to contact the registrant by e-mail both to the last known addresses, and to the domain's postmaster, hostmaster, and webmaster addresses (and addresses readily available from a website possibly associated to the domain name). If that fails, there should be several attempts to reach the registrant by telephone. Finally, the postal service should be used, allowing 30 calendar days "for the letter to be delivered and processed."
Mr. Bertola also recommends that ICANN should: establish a step-by-step contact verification process which should include attempts to reach the registrant through a variety of communication channels; foster the creation of simple instruments for registrants to keep their contact details up to date; introduce measures by which some or all information about registrants may be withheld from the public WHOIS system.
Finally, he notes that "the WHOIS service as currently implemented by most registries is clearly illegal in a number of countries, including the European Union."
In this comment, Robert Baskerville agrees with the need for accurate WHJOIS data; however, he believes that the 15 day time limit is too short. He sees "little purpose" for the continuation of bulk access to WHOIS data, and identifies it as a disincentive to accurate data. He points to the European legislation on data protection which covers all personal information and prohibits export of such data "to anywhere which does not have similar legislative protection of personal data without direct consent."
Mr. Baskerville is "happy for the data linking myself to various .uk domains to be available for standard whois queries", but does not want it to be available for any bulk purpose outside research.
Mr. Kirikos re-iterates his concern about the 15 day period, and once again suggests a whitelist mechanism to be implemented by registrars. He also suggests to establish a "legal contact", "for which legal notices can be sent, to augment the existing adim/technical/billing contacts."
In this comment, John Berryhill lists a number of domain names whoise WHOIS records include the World Trade Center in New York as the registrant's postal address. He writes: "I reported the fictitious addresses in the following domain names a couple of months ago, and Verisign has done nothing. As per the 15 day period to correct registration data, these people have had plenty of time, and I agree with the Task Force that their delay is inexcusable."
This comment was submitted by Elana Broitman (register.com). Ms. Broitman points out that public, query-based WHOIS services are abused in an equal or worse manner as bulk WHOIS. She gives the DROA taking of Register.com's and other registrars' WHOIS data as an example, and notes that the data was not obtained through a bulk WHOIS license. Ms. Broitman appreciates the "good public policy reasons for publicly available WHOIS," but believes that "we can find a solution that meets these legitimate needs while protecting consumers... from public disclosure that is subject to abuse." Finally, Ms. Broitman notes that "until we address this gap, there is little use in changing bulk WHOIS requirements ... as potential bulk WHOIS licensees move to abuse of public WHOIS."
In this comment, Bret Fausett notes a personal experience with the 15-day response policy in which he received notice from his registrar that his contact data was inaccurate and must be corrected within 7 (seven) days or run the risk that his domain name would be deleted. The contact data in question were accurate; the complaint was fraudulent. Mr. Fausett suggests that ICANN should not accept anonymous complaints about WHOIS inaccuracies, that the 15-day deadline should be extended to 30 days, and that "the deletion grace period should apply to domain names deleted because they allegedly had inaccurate WHOIS data."
Danny Younger supports the earlier recommendation of Michael Palage that the Task Force be dissolved as it has "failed to properly and fully address community concerns regarding privacy."
Barbara Simons is concerned that the availability of WHOIS contact data is a thread to privacy and security, through identity theft which dcan in turn be used to create false identification for criminals and terrorists. She supports the comments submitted by Kathy Kleiman on 9 December 2002.
Aaron Swartz notes that the WHOIS database provides invaluable information for the public, researchers, and archivists. He argues that the current $ 10,000 bulk access fee "practically ensures that the data will only be used for marketing purposes." He suggests that complete electronic copies of the data be made available for purposes of research and archival at cost, and suggests that 22.214.171.124 should have an exception for research and archival purposes.
Karl Auerbach feels that the policy report "unfairly characterizes [his] comments and failed to answer even a single one of [his] questions." He re-attaches his early comments.
Mr. Auerbach disagrees with the interim report in that it starts from "an irrebutable presumption, that whois data must be published for the convenience of intellectual property owners no matter how much social damage that may cause through destruction of personal privacy."
Mr. Auerbach supports the comments made by Kathryn A. Kleiman.
Stanley Krute of Soda Mountain, Co., recounts his own tracking of an individual who ran a fraudulent Internet service in his community. With Google and WHOIS, Mr. Krute was able to trace 3 years of faudulent activity amounting to several hundred thousand dollars. He writes: "Without the whois database, my ability to figure out a timeline of this guy's crimes would've been nearly zilch. whois is a vital component of the web. It provides a minimal level of accountability. Without an accurate whois directory, the web will become a prime location for criminal activities."
Mr. Krute is not sure about bulk access "due to the existence of spammers." However, he suggests that there should be a web service (XML-RPC, SOAP) for automated WHOIS queries. He suggests that spammers may be deterred by "limiting the interface to one query at a time."
This comment was submitted by Shane Tews on behalf of the Network Solutions Registrar. According to the comments, the Task Force's report does not yet reflect a thorough vetting of all the issues related to the future of WHOIS, nor a consensus of the community on its conclusions. Network Solutions believes that bulk WHOIS access is one of the causes of the current spam problem as well as a cause of concern for privacy advocates. It should not be a precondition for using the domain name system for a user to have to open herself up to abuse through the misuse of contact data. Network Solutions believes that suituations like the abuse of contact data are legitimate reasons for limiting availability of contact information. Until consumer privacy concerns are adequately addressed, progress in assuring accurate WHOIS data will be difficult.
In response to Aaron Swartz's earlier comment. Ray Fassett suggests that "the application of Digital Rights Management technology could restrict certain uses of the database upon download, notably those favored by marketing objectives."
This chapter contains summaries of statements received by the Task Force outside the usual comment process. Some of the issues addressed in these comments are not covered by the present report, but will be the topics of issues reports to be produced by the Task Force in the immediate future.
WHOIS Recommendation of the Security and Stability Advisory Committee
The Security and Stability Advisory Committee provided recommendations in a December 1, 2002, report to the ICANN board, which the Task Force has reviewed. The report acknowledges the importance of WHOIS data for the security and stability of the Internet as the administrating and control of Internet resources is widely distributed. The Committee recommended validation of contact information for the party responsible for the Internet resource at the time of registration and on a regular basis thereafter. Non-validated records must be frozen or held until updated or removed. The committee supports the development of a standard format for WHOIS. The report also notes the importance of mechanisms to protect a registrant's privacy. It also recommends that methods be developed to discourage harvesting or mining of WHOIS information. The report includes some interesting recommendations about requiring a "last verified date" for the WHOIS data. The Committee recommends that registrars, registries and all interested parties should support and participate in the activities of the CRISP and PROVREG working groups of the IETF.
Contribution of the European Commission to the general discusison of the WHOIS database raised by the Reports produced by the ICANN WHOIS Task Force
The European Commission provided a three page contribution to ICANN in mid January, 2003, which the Task Force has reviewed. The contribution provides comments on some of the earlier reports of the Task Force and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the issues in more detail. The contribution follows two earlier communications from the Commission to ICANN, which are referenced. This communication acknowledges that the survey undertaken by the Task Force is not a scientific study and that its result are not representative of all users. The contribution notes the importance of recognizing existing legal frameworks' legal requirements and obligations. It further describes the purpose of the WHOIS database as traditionally technical and operational in nature. The submission notes that the Task Force report did not define what uses are legitimate and compatible to the original purpose. The importance of limiting the amount of personal data to be collected and processed, under the European Data Privacy Directive is emphasized. The contribution contains supportive comments on the role of Trusted Third Parties or similar solutions and on studying "differentiated" access to provide WHOIS data but without having all data available to everybody. There is support concerning accuracy of data and to limitation of bulk access, and observes that "bulk access, for any purpose (not only for direct marketing), is in principle unacceptable." The Interim Report's proposals concerning uniformity and more searchable WHOIS facilities are not supported.
Contribution of the International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications
The International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications has provided a comment (dated January 15, 2003) in response to the Task Force's Interim Report. The Working Group reaffirms its Common Position on Privacy and Data Protection aspects of the Registration of Domain Names on the Internet originally adopted in May 2000. The Working Group is "especially critical of proposals contained in the Interim Report ... to extend the search capabilities of WHOIS databases to searches for the registrant name."
Received by the Task Force in Response to the Final Report
The Task Force's Final Report was open for comments between 6 February 2003 and 17 February 2003.
I. Overview of all Comments
2003 Feb 06
2003 Feb 07
2003 Feb 08
2003 Feb 11
2003 Feb 12
2003 Feb 17
2003 Feb 18
II. Summary of Relevant Comments
Robert E. Lane comments on the general importance of WHOIS, and on an
illegitimate charity he could unveil through WHOIS information.
Marc Schneiders recommends that "the points and positions of the EU should be taken much more into account."
The comment from Milap Chand Choraria refers to WHOIS accuracy and demands that "Registrar or their Selling Agent should not add anything in the informations given by the Registrant in respect of Registrant, Administrative, Billing Contact."
Marc Schneiders is concerned that future work on WHOIS might be stalled once the Task Force's proposals are implemented, since "IntProp have what they need." As an incentive to avoid this danger, Mr. Schneiders suggests that the Task Force's recommendations should expire unless privacy and other issues are being dealt with before a certain date.
Sotiris Sotiropulous expresses his belief that "this latest report does not adequately reflect a consensus among the Internet Community as a whole", is "unfairly biased in favor of Intellectual Property interests", and lacks necessary broader community input.
Prof. Michael Froomkin from the University of Miami School of Law comments that "the separation of privacy issues from the other issues is not acceptable," since "they are logically indivisible." He predicts that a "finding of 'non-consensus' on privacy" will "block any changes in that area."
Joanna Lane suggests that "the core public interest issue [in WHOIS] is Privacy, one which the Report does not even address." Task Forces are portraied as "vehicles to promote self interests at the expense of core issues of public interest." Ms. Lane proposes that a new Task Force "made up entirely of those for whom the public interest is their only interest" should be convened.
This comment was submitted by Danny Younger, who (while noting that he is not a lawyer) suggests that the Task Force's recommendation on bulk access for marketing uses may be in violation of the United States Sherman Act.
Alice Breck-Jamison specifically comments on the 15 day period from RAA 126.96.36.199. She notes that nothing prevents registrars from imposing even tighter deadlines on their customers, and quotes an example for this business practice. She points to the risk that registrants may not receive (or overlook) WHOIS accuracy inquiries e-mailed by registrars. As a solution, a requirement to make a contact attempt by certified mail is proposed. Ms. Breck-Jamison concludes that "the Task Force's report does not adequately protect the interests and concerns of legitimate domain name holders."
Danny Younger points to a first amendment right to anonymous speech recognized by the US Supreme Court, and concludes that "You cannot, under current US law, deny me my right to constitutionally protected anonymity and force me to abide by your demands for 'accuracy'. The failure of this Task Force to even consider US or European laws on anonymity and privacy is all the more reason to reject these ill-considered recommendations."
This comment contains a dissenting opinion submitted by Ruchika Agrawal, which has been incorporated into this report.
This comment was submitted by Ross Wm. Rader on behalf of Tucows. Mr. Rader refers to Tucows' corporate position on registrant privacy, and to an open letter from April 2001 in which this position was re-affirmed. In this letter, Tucows had noted that "the business community must engage in the work necessary to ensure the rights of the individual Registrant prior to legislative intervention by various governmental bodies." Tucows had also stated that "Registrant privacy is not an option, but a right." Mr. Rader characterizes privacy as the "central policy that must be dealt with in relation to WHOIS"; the Task Force's approach to treat this topic in an issues report is found to be not sufficient. Tucows requests that the Task Force's report not be approved by the GNSO Council "until such time that the central policy issue that most concerns the community is dealt with in an effective and appropriate manner."
The comment expresses support for the Task Force's recommendation on resale of WHOIS data, and proposes even stronger wording. The recommendation that registrars "may seek evidence or justification from the complainant" as the first step of the accuracy complaint handling process is also supported. Tucows objects against any recommendations imposing obligations upon "resellers", and against the Task Force's recommendation II.D.2, which is characterized as stating "that Registrars are wholly responsible for the accuracy of the database." Instead, Tucows states that there are situations where it would be appropriate for a registrar to deliberately accept unverified data from a registrant that has already deliberately provided incorrect data. The Task Force's (and Implementation Committee's) recommendation that accuracy inquiries should be sent to all available contact points is found questionable, on the basis that these contacts may not be able to correct wrong data. Additional clarity is requested with respect to the Task Force's (and Implementation Committee's) recommendation to use registrar-hold status. Clarification is also sought with respect to the recommendation that corrected data submitted by registrants in response to an accuracy inquiry should be subject to commercially reasonable plausibility checks, and the example given for these steps.
This comment was submitted by David Maher on behalf of the Public Interest Registry (.org). PIR supports the Task Force's proposal on bulk access, and suggests "that the Task Force put off action on accuracy requirements until the privacy and data protection issues associated with the use of WHOIS data are adequately addressed." The comment elaborates on dangers to freedom of expression and privacy posed by the disclosure of personal information, on possible abuse of that information to commit frauds such as identity theft, and on international views on privacy and data protection, such as the International Working Group on Data Protections in Telecommunications' Common Position published in March 2000.
This comment was submitted twice by T. Williams, Jr. Mr. Williams asks who the members of the Task Force are, and where a record of members' votes can be found.
This comment was submitted by Jeff Williams on behalf of INEGroup. Mr. Williams identifies privacy and security concerns as being primary concerns. Mr. Williams also has issues with the processes used by the Task Force.
This minority report was submitted by Ruchika Agrawal on behalf of the NCUC.
As a non-commercial constituency representative on the WHOIS Task Force, I am writing to express my dissenting opinion on the Task Force�s accuracy recommendation.
While I do not oppose accurate data per se, I do oppose the Task Force's recommendation to enforce accuracy of WHOIS information when the Task Force has failed to adequately address privacy issues. I also believe the Task Force final report fails to reflect several suggestions made by members to address this specific problem. For this reason, the report cannot fairly be described as a "consensus" position.
The Task Force failed to recommend appropriate privacy safeguards for domain name registrants with reasonable and legitimate expectations of privacy and the Task Force failed to assess the misuses of WHOIS data. The very existence of inaccurate data suggests that there are domain name registrants who do care to safeguard their privacy and prevent the misuse of their personally identifiable information. Furthermore, a number of comments submitted to the WHOIS Task Force's recommendations report raise privacy and data misuse issues that the WHOIS Task Force has effectively ignored:
A number of privacy and data misuse issues have been expressed by way of comments to the Task Force's interim and final reports as early as July 2002. It is not clear what criteria the WHOIS Task Force is applying to suggest that accuracy of WHOIS data supersedes legitimate privacy interests.
Moreover, the non-commercial constituency representatives expressed the need to address privacy protection:
It is not clear why these points, which are central to the development of a sensible WHOIS policy, are being put off. Proposing a "privacy issues report" is unresponsive. Postponing privacy issues while enforcing accuracy also presents the unacceptable risk of privacy issues being dismissed or resolved unsatisfactorily (see http://dnso.icann.org/dnso/dnsocomments/comments-whois/Arc03/msg00004.html and http://dnso.icann.org/dnso/dnsocomments/comments-whois/Arc03/msg00006.html Minimally, enforcement of accuracy and insurance of privacy safeguards should be concurrent.
The WHOIS Task Force is well aware of these issues, but has chosen not to address them. For this reason, I ask that my dissent be incorporated in the Final Report as a Minority Report.
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