18 September 2003
Memorandum From ICANN CEO Paul Twomey Concerning Whois
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
WHOIS is a topic of much interest to the ICANN community. The future
path for WHOIS service requires the resolution of numerous important issues,
some of which fall within ICANN’s purview, but many of which may
arise from statutory or regulatory provisions of national law that have
no direct relationship with ICANN’s technical coordination mission,
but that may have implications for ICANN policies. Despite these challenges,
ICANN will continue to encourage and facilitate the spirit of cooperation
and collaboration that the ICANN community and WHOIS stakeholders brought
to ICANN’s WHOIS workshop in
Montreal [icann.org]. To advance work on WHOIS in a coordinated and cooperative
manner, ICANN will: support key fact-finding and analysis; promote cross-constituency
and WHOIS stakeholder dialogues, including a WHOIS
workshop in Carthage [icann.org] in October 2003; and establish a “President’s
Committee on WHOIS,” to support the work of ICANN’s community.
Before providing details on these steps to be taken, however, it is important
to ensure a common understanding of the context of ICANN’s WHOIS
Updating and Establishing ICANN WHOIS Policy
To update and establish ICANN WHOIS policy, many critical issues need
to be addressed. Some of these arise from the need to update a twenty-year-old
WHOIS system; other issues are related to ICANN WHOIS policy and principles;
and many are the result of the growth of the Internet, associated dependencies
by users of WHOIS, and the interest of national governments in WHOIS information.
In recent months, ICANN has made progress in addressing long-standing
concerns about the WHOIS services by which users of the Internet may obtain
information on the registrants of domain names and related information
about holders of Internet protocol (IP) addresses. After nearly two years
of work, ICANN’s Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO [icann.org])
(now the Generic Names Supporting Organization, GNSO [icann.org])
WHOIS Task Force made recommendations
concerning bulk access to and accuracy of WHOIS information [icann.org]. These
recommendations were developed
as a consensus policy by the GNSO, adopted by the ICANN Board on 27 March
2003 [icann.org], and are in the process of being implemented.
One of these recommendations, the “WHOIS
data reminder policy [icann.org]” (WDRP), was recently put into practice.
It calls for ICANN-accredited registrars to provide domain-name registrants
with an annual listing of their WHOIS data and to remind registrants of
the need to correct inaccurate or out-of-date information. Registrars
have agreed in their accreditation
agreements [icann.org] with ICANN to comply with the WDRP.
Subsequently, a successful WHOIS
workshop [icann.org] was organized and held during the Montreal ICANN meeting
in June 2003 to examine a myriad of outstanding WHOIS issues. The workshop
featured presentations from subject experts on WHOIS, and addressed such
issues as privacy, consumer protection, and law enforcement access. This
event engendered productive discussions among the major constituency groups
and WHOIS stakeholders that will help move us toward a future WHOIS environment
that meets the expectations of the ICANN community, the broader Internet
community, and national governments.
As I stated at the Montreal
workshop [icann.org], advancing WHOIS will require further cross-constituency
collaboration and bottom-up policy development. I asked groups to come
together and pursue joint efforts, rather than take the “silo approach”
of one constituency developing recommendations in isolation. In response,
members of ICANN’s community have offered suggestions on how to
advance ICANN’s WHOIS work in a collaborative manner. ICANN must
continue to build a base of WHOIS good practice, and address policy matters
that need attention, to ensure that the expectations of the community
for accurate and accessible WHOIS data are met with due regard for registrant
Members of the community and ICANN staff are undertaking several data
gathering and analysis projects intended as prepatory work that will contribute
to the development of "best practice" models for WHOIS in a
bottom-up, consensus development process. Several parallel efforts are,
or soon will be, underway and interested individuals and organizations
are encouraged to contribute:
1) CRISP Review. The Internet Engineering Task Force’s
(IETF [ietf.org]’s) Cross-Registry Information
Service Protocol (CRISP)
Working Group [ietf.org] will define a standard mechanism that can be used to
support commonly required queries for domain registration information.
Participation is encouraged. The CRISP protocol may, at a future date,
be adopted and affect the services currently implemented in WHOIS. The
CRISP Working Group is in the process of refining requirements (identifying
the community of users, deciding on scope, identifying needs, and determining
features), and has called for comments on the functional
requirements statement [rfc-editor.org] contained in the IETF's draft request for comments
(RFC) on the CRISP protocol. The GNSO
Council [icann.org], under the direction of Bruce Tonkin (GNSO Council Chair),
will be launching such a review and is encouraging its constituencies
and liaisons to participate.
2) WHOIS Data Element Review. With ICANN staff support,
an analysis will be conducted on the existing uses of the registrant data
elements currently captured as part of the domain name registration process.
The intent is to determine whether all of the data elements now collected
are necessary for current and foreseeable needs of the community, and
if so, how they may be acquired with the greatest accuracy, least cost,
and in compliance with applicable privacy, security, and stability considerations.
3) Domain Name Registrant Classification. At the Montreal
workshop, there was discussion about whether it was feasible to distinguish
different classes of domain name holders such that the WHOIS information
collected from them, and made available to the community, could reflect
differing types of use and potentially different privacy considerations.
The Government Affairs Committee (GAC [gac-icann.org])
WHOIS Working Group, chaired by Robin Layton (GAC’s US Accredited
Representative), is investigating this possibility.
4) Best Practices Information. Another useful endeavor
identified at the Montreal workshop, is the collection of current best
practice information, especially with regard to privacy matters, from
selected country code registries and registrars. Under the leadership
of the GAC and the Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO)
(which is under formation), contributions to this data gathering effort
are encouraged to help ensure that our WHOIS efforts benefit from the
global community’s successes.
Carthage Workshop and President’s Committee on WHOIS
To help advance these efforts and encourage coordination and collaboration,
two activities are planned for ICANN’s Carthage
meeting [icann.org] in late October. ICANN will sponsor a second WHOIS workshop
focusing on identifying the priority WHOIS issues to be addressed by ICANN
and discussing applicable “best practices." Participation is
encouraged. Additional information will be available (here [icann.org])
in the near future.
Because WHOIS issues cut across many ICANN constituencies, a “President’s
Committee on WHOIS” will be established to support coordination
and collaboration in further fact-finding and analysis, and Supporting
Organization development of draft policy and practice recommendations.
The Committee will be broadly representative of ICANN constituencies interested
in WHOIS issues, and comprised of knowledgeable individuals who are committed
to understanding a broad range of views and working together to help prioritize
WHOIS issues and move the community forward. Please send recommendations
of individuals to serve on the Committee to Twomey@icann.org [mailto].
ICANN constituencies and WHOIS stakeholders are encouraged to participate
in and support the activities outlined above. Your cooperation and collaboration
are vital to creating a future WHOIS environment that meets the expectations
of the ICANN community, the broader Internet community and national governments.
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