Close this menu

ICANN Round One: Playing Scope-a-dope with Whois

It’s day 1 of the ICANN meeting here in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The final round for today was a spirited discussion of what ICANN should do to fix its Whois service, which is either not enough or too much, depending on who’s talking.

Parents need Whois to investigate who’s behind sites their kids are visiting.   Trademark owners need Whois to track down squatters and posers. E-commerce companies need Whois to stop spam, phishing, and pharming.  Law enforcement uses Whois to go after child porn and criminal elements. 

On the other end of the spectrum are privacy advocates, who don’t want any personal information in Whois—no matter who’s asking!   

And in between are the registrars, who are scheming for ways to profit from Whois, by charging for privacy and collecting fees for access to the information they collect.

ICANN experts debated alternate plans to fix Whois, which everyone agrees is inaccurate and incomplete. At one point in the debate, I had to stand up and ask: how will any of these plans fix the fatal flaw of “gargage in – garbage out?”  That is, how can ICANN stop registars from stuffing Whoios with bogus information through proxy registrations?  After all, the registrar GoDaddy just got a patent for a proxy registration method that hides true identities of domain name owners.

ICANN’s panel of experts gave a typical expert reply – my question was about policy enforcement, which is “out of scope” of the limited focus of their proposals. To which I threw the BS flag, and suggested that they had better expand their focus if they’re even half-serious about improving the integrity of e-commerce and the Internet experience.