See the public comment announcement on this topic: WHOIS Policy Review Team – Discussion Paper. The public comment period closes on Saturday, 23 July 2011.
The first draft of this ALAC statement, by Carlton Samuels, reflects the views of the At-Large Community (based on its members' written and spoken comments). Please use the "Add Comment" function below to leave comments.
DRAFT ALAC STATEMENT ON WHOIS REVIEW DISCUSSION PAPER
The ALAC welcomes the Discussion Paper as a laudable step in the WHOIS Review Team’s goal to solicit structured feedback from the community as guidance for your continued work. Notwithstanding, we would have liked to see additional ones that seek to define the problems attending current WHOIS definition, utilization and compliance that are properly before the Review Team for exploration and advice to the Board and global ICANN community. We also heartily endorse the series of community-specific conversations that the Review Team hosted during the ICANN 41st International Meeting at Singapore, at which time members of the ALAC and others of our community participated and observed.
The ALAC is on record as to its concerns with aspects of certain WHOIS-related matters from which we do not retreat. [See ALAC Statement <add link of March 2011 Statement here>.] And having participated and observed the interactions with other communities, we are now more convinced than ever that the single most important objective for the Team is to report a perspective and/or recommend a set of policy initiatives or refinements to existing policy that realize a balancing of the competing interests in regard the entire WHOIS ecosystem. We are particularly seized of the possibility that having executed as proposed, the Team would be in a position to identify and define all of the problems attending WHOIS, prioritize their impact on consumer trust and confidence in the domain names system and make an unambiguous recommendation as to areas of need and focus of the correctional policy work should be in the near to mid-term.
With respect to process and while our community has concerns about whether this new consumer-focused study now authorized by Board funding [See link to Board Resolution <add link here>] will add any new information, the ALAC on general principle will always be for more and complete information as possible on this knotty issue, if only to satisfy ourselves that all possible sources of information and the interests of all sectors are fully aired and considered before a decision. To reiterate, the ALAC believes that this Review Team must embrace or reject but pronounce unambiguously on several related principles. It is our view that this Team must treat with and declare: 1) Whether the WHOIS construct as originally devised and for the purpose intended is still necessary 2) Whether the WHOIS dataset as originally determined remains fit to original purpose 3) Whether the several identifiable uses made of both the WHOIS data and processes that has expanded its original intent is useful and in the public interest.
In reference, we would surely expect recommendations from the Team as to whether these additional uses made of WHOIS is within the terms and intent of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) and as such, to be embraced by the global community and by virtue of this embrace, in the remit of ICANN Compliance. In the end, answers to these questions will allow thoughtful interpretations as to: 1) Whether the present WHOIS dataset is good and sufficient to meet these needs and likely others that might be contemplated 2) Whether the WHOIS information processes used to meet WHOIS information compliance and now in production are fit to purpose. Using this framework, for example, the Team may be able to acknowledge the instance of Privacy Proxy Services and the role they play in the WHOIS ecosystem, chart and recommend some workable solution that acknowledges and fully embrace privacy concerns of the community, including ways that these may be answered in a balanced way.
With regard to compliance, the ALAC now believes that maybe the time has come for a change in the philosophical approach to WHOIS compliance. Over the years, it has become almost an article of faith that ICANN Compliance is responsible for WHOIS data accuracy. There is also widespread acceptance that the registry/registrar community is responsible and must bear the cost and burden of both data accuracy as well as availability. The lowered expectations of registrants in this area is often remarked. We now acknowledge the complexity of these issues and on record, reject these views as too unilateral and simplistic in definition and, thusly, undermine the opportunity to be effectively addressed.
Compliance in particular has a great need for a balanced approach, given the 3 sets of actors; registrants, registrars and ICANN Compliance. Undoubtedly, WHOIS data accuracy is a cost/value proposition with differing perspectives from registrants as original data providers, registrars as collectors and hosts for the data and users of the WHOIS dataset. We do not doubt that 100% accuracy is laudable as an objective. But we recognize that as a practical matter, 100% accuracy may just be unobtainable in the present dispensation and places an unfair burden on one set of actors in the WHOIS triangle. In fact, this objective creates an insurmountable threshold for ICANN Compliance, even with their best effort and more resources available to them. We believe that the all-round public interest may be better served by recognizing that the risks from the fraudulent actions of bad actors are not the same throughout the WHOIS data cycle but tends to be cyclical; higher following the establishment of new domains and decreasing thereafter. Neither is it rational for the same risk in class or kind to be ascribed to all domains; domains used primarily for support of business transactions on the web have a higher risk for consequential fraudulent activities than those used for more personal or informational pursuits. As such, certain adjustments in approach to compliance and our expectations of the impact from compliance might benefit from a change in the philosophical construct of compliance and the processes used to effect assurance of compliance.
The ALAC remains keenly committed to the Review Process and awaits the outputs with heightened anticipation.