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    Highlights of the ICANNWatch Archive
    (June 1999 - March 2001)

    Privacy Signs of Progress on Privacy
    posted by Mueller on Saturday March 29 2003, @09:27AM

    At the Rio meeting, Whois issues dominated the discussion on the GNSO Council. ICANN's Board, the registrar and registry industries, and the Noncommercial constituency are showing increased concern over the legal implications of using WHOIS data to publicly display domain name registrant contact data. At the same time, the Intellectual Property and law enforcement interests, led by Marilyn Cade, are pushing for stringent new measures to increase accuracy.

    Odd as it may sound, current political constellations favor the pro-privacy forces. At Rio, the Council agreed to initiate a new policy development process (PDP) related to WHOIS and privacy. At the same time, it delayed any further action on accuracy until the privacy process was completed. Futher, the Board's passage of a "consensus" WHOIS policy, the product of two years of endless teleconferencing led by Cade, will prove to be an empty victory.

    The new "consensus policies" do little to change the status quo. All they really do is:

    1) require registrars to send their customers an annual display of their current Whois data along with a reminder that it is supposed to be accurate.
    2) require that names deleted for non-response to a registrar inquiry go into the redemption grace period but stay "on hold" until the Whois data is updated, if it was deleted for inaccuracy.

    Both are minor extensions of current policy. The first item is in many ways useful to users, as it gives them a chance to make sure the registrar has it right. Whether that information should be displayed publicly on the Internet or not is a separate issue. In fact, it is really current policy, not these changes, that the NCUC dissented against when it refused to go along with Cade's report.

    The other two policies recommended by the WHOIS Task Force are actually pro-privacy, or rather anti-spam. They

    3) Prevent use of bulk WHOIS data form being used for marketing purposes, and
    4) Do not allow resale of the bulk Whois data.

    Thus, the stage is now set for a more comprehensive review of the relationship between Whois data, accuracy and privacy. The ICANN staff now has 45 days to prepare a final issues report on privacy. The staff issues report will integrate privacy issues papers submitted by the NCUC and Marilyn Cade, and serve as the foundation for the Terms of Reference of a new Task Force.

    There are several reasons why privacy is making progress. First, registries and registrars have discovered that it's expensive to be someone else's policeman. Second, abuses of bulk access to Whois data, and especially of Port 43 access to Whois data, for which registrars do not even get paid, are irritating the suppliers. Equally if not more important, there are severe doubts about whether the current approach to Whois is even legal under European privacy law, and the privacy laws of other countries. Finally, people are beginning to understand that inaccurate contact data and lack of privacy are closely related phenomena.

    There is even some talk of getting the Board to form a special blue-ribbon committee on privacy, drawing on OECD, EPIC, etc.

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  • NCUC
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  • More on Privacy
  • Also by Mueller
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    Signs of Progress on Privacy | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 2 comments | Search Discussion
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    Today's presumption of publication is backwards
    by KarlAuerbach on Saturday March 29 2003, @11:34AM (#11398)
    User #3243 Info | http://www.cavebear.com/
    The DNS whois system of today is premised on a presumption that personally identifiable information is to be published.

    This current presumption places the burden of demonstrating why publication of items should not occur on those who wish to not publish those items.

    That is completely backwards.

    The default should be a presumption of non-publication. And those who wish to obtain personally identifiable information ought to have the burden of demonstrating why the public value of their needs outweigh the rights of the data subject.

    Privacy is not an absolute, it is a balance. However, in DNS whois we have started with a pre-weighted scale that so overweights trademark concerns that mere amendment would be futile; we must start again from first principles.

    There is some hope that now, with Joe Sims gone, that the ICANN board may actually begin thinking. But I do not have much hope that this will occur until several more of the dinosaurs go to the boneyards.

    Equally important to whether ICANN will do anything about privacy is the source of pressure to do so - ICANN's ALAC system of powerless village soviets effectively reduces the voice of those most concerned about privacy, the individual, to a very distant murmer. The voices of ICANN's insiders, the chosen "stakeholders" will, under ICANN's pro-industry systems, always drown out the voice of the public.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]

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