WHOIS Task Force 2 Review of data collected and displayed DOW

Last Updated: 1 September 2009
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Comment period ended 28 November 2003 23:00 GMT

WHOIS Task Force 2
Description of Work

Amended: 29 October 2003

Title: Review of data collected and displayed

- 1 representative from each constituency
- ALAC liaison
- GAC liaison
- ccNSO liaison
- SECSAC liaison
- liaisons from other GNSO WHOIS task forces
- up to three outside advisors

Description of Task Force:

There are domain name holders that are concerned about their privacy, both in terms of data that is collected and held about them, and also in terms of what data is made available to other parties. In this regard it should be mentioned that there already is existing local law in several jurisdictions regulating this matter.

At the same time, domain names, associated email addresses, and web sites located by domain names can be used in connection with fraud, criminal activity, and intellectual property infringement. This gives rise to a need for accurate identification of the registrant, and/or a need to reliably contact the individual or organization that is the registered name holder. Many users of Whois perceive that there is an unacceptable level of inaccuracy in Whois data that compromises its ability to facilitate identifying and contacting registrants.

Similar trade-offs between privacy concerns and identification affect the technical functions of Whois. Extensive contact information can assist a registrar or network provider to contact a domain name holder in the event of a technical problem or in the event of domain name expiration. However, a domain name holder may be prepared to make a personal decision to accept a lower standard of service (e.g. take their own steps to be reminded of when a domain expires) in return for greater privacy. A domain name holder may be prepared to provide extensive contact information to their domain name provider, but would prefer to control what information is available for public access.

Identifiers in other media typically attempt to balance identification and privacy concerns. For example a telephone customer may provide detailed address information to a telephone service provider, but may elect not to have this information displayed in a public whitepages directory. Note however that national laws often permit access to the complete information to groups such as law enforcement and emergency services personnel. Similarly, the ability of persons to opt out of public disclosure of some data may be limited.

Although the GNSO has in the past adopted new policies regarding the accuracy of data and bulk access, the prior Task Force chose to defer considerations of privacy to a future point.

Another issue is that there is limited public understanding of the present contractual obligations, including the obligations to disclose to those who provide data the uses to which it will be put, and to obtain their consent. Most domain name holders are probably unaware that their information is being displayed publicly via the present port-43 and interactive web access methods, or is made available to third parties under the bulk WHOIS access agreement.

The purpose of this task force is to determine:
a) What is the best way to inform registrants of what information about themselves is made publicly available when they register a domain name and what options they have to restrict access to that data and receive notification of its use?

b) What changes, if any, should be made in the data elements about registrants that must be collected at the time of registration to achieve an acceptable balance between the interests of those seeking contact-ability, and those seeking privacy protection?

c) Should domain name holders be allowed to remove certain parts of the required contact information from anonymous (public) access, and if so, what data elements can be withdrawn from public access, by which registrants, and what contractual changes (if any) are required to enable this? Should registrars be required to notify domain name holders when the withheld data is released to third parties?
If registrants have the ability to withhold data from public, anonymous access will this increase user incentives to keep the contact information they supply current and accurate.

To ensure that the task force remains focussed and that its goal is achievable and within a reasonable time frame, it is necessary to be clear on what is out of scope for the task force.


The task force should not examine the mechanisms available for anonymous public access of the data - this is the subject of a separate task force.

The task force should not examine mechanisms for law enforcement access to the data collected. This is generally subject to varying local laws, and may be the subject of a future task force.

The task force should not study new methods or policies for ensuring the accuracy of the required data, as this will be subject of a separate task force.

The task force should not consider issues regarding registrars' ability to use Whois data for their own marketing purposes, or their claims of proprietary rights to customers' personal data.


1. Examine the current methods by which registrars and their resellers inform registrants of the purpose for which contact data is collected, and how that data will be released to the public. Examine whether policy changes (or published guidelines) are necessary to improve how this information is provided to registrants.

2. Conduct an analysis of the existing uses of the registrant data elements currently captured as part of the domain name registration process. Develop a list of data elements about registrants and their domains that must be collected at the time of registration to achieve an acceptable balance between the interests of those seeking contact-ability, and those seeking privacy protection. The intent is to determine whether all of the data elements now collected are necessary for current and foreseeable needs of the community, determine which elements can be acquired accurately at low cost, whether any of the current elements should be made voluntary, whether any different elements should be added or substituted to improve the balance between contact-ability and privacy, and how the data may be acquired in compliance with applicable privacy, security, and stability considerations.

3. Consider options for limiting the amount of data made available for public access, if any.

4. Document existing methods by which registrants can maintain anonymity and assess their adequacy. Document examples of existing local privacy laws in regard to display/transmittal of data. Decide what options if any will be given to registrants to remove data elements from public access and what contractual changes (if any) are required to enable this.

5. Taking into account the outcomes in 2 and 3, re-examine the methods by which registrars inform registrants of the use of their contact data by third parties and the options registrants might have to remove data elements from public view.