Final Report of the Combined Whois Task Force of the GNSO Council

Last Updated: 02 April 2018
Date: 
25 October 2005
ICANN Logo      

Whois Privacy

Information
  Master Calendar
  Announcements
  Issues
  Request for Comments
  Policies
  FAQ
  Documents
  Mailing Lists
  DNSO Site Archive
  Acronyms
  Elections
Constituencies
  Commercial & Business
  gTLD Registries
  Internet Service & Connection Providers
  Non-Commercial
  Registrars
  Intellectual Property
GNSO Council
  Council Members
  ICANN Participants
  Documents
     
GNSO Home | Issues | Whois Privacy

Combined WHOIS Task Force of the GNSO Council

Final task force report on a policy recommendation and advice on a procedure for handling conflicts between a registrar/registry's legal obligations under privacy laws and their contractual obligations to ICANN

 


Table of contents

 

1 Introduction & background
    1.1 Text of recommendation and advice on a procedure
    1.2 Summary of Task Force voting on the recommendation

2 Constituency statements

    2.1 Commercial and Business User Constituency
    2.2 Non-Commercial User Constituency
    2.3 Intellectual Property Constituency
    2.4 Registrar Constituency
    2.5 Registry Constituency
    2.6 Internet Service Providers & Connectivity Providers Constituency

3 Public comment report

    3.1 Comments from the International Trademark Association - WHOIS Subcommittee
    3.2 Comments from indidivuals
    3.3 Comments from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
    3.4 Comments from the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA)
    3.5 Public comments report - conclusion

Annexes

    Annex 1 Relevant provisions of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA)

    Annex 2 International Data Protection laws: Comments to ICANN from Commissioners and Organizations regarding WHOIS and the Protection of Privacy (background paper from the NCUC)

    Annex 3 Results of Task Force indicative straw poll on proposed changes to the recommendation and advice


1 Introduction & background

Article X, Section 1 of the ICANN Bylaws (http://www.icann.org/general/bylaws.htm#X ) states "the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), (which) shall be responsible for developing and recommending to the ICANN Board substantive policies relating to generic top-level domains." This preliminary task force report and the consensus policy recommendation therein refers only to the generic top level domain space. 

This document is the Preliminary Task Force Report on a consensus policy recommendation and advice on a procedure for handling WHOIS conflicts with local or national privacy laws. It is comprised of the proposed recommendation and advice, background information, the task force vote and the constituency statements. This report was the subject of a task force vote held on Tuesday, 6th September, 2005.

Work on the issues in this task force report was begun in 2003 by the then WHOIS Task Force 2. This work was continued through 2005 by the Combined WHOIS Task Force which ultimately voted on the developed recommendation and advice. In December 2003, WHOIS Task Force 2 was tasked with "document(ing) examples of existing privacy laws in regard to display/transmittal of data". (Task Force 2 terms of reference, point 4 of 'tasks and milestones';available at http://gnso.icann.org/issues/whois-privacy/tor2.html).

Task Force 2's preliminary report was published for public comment in June 2004 (available at http://gnso.icann.org/issues/whois-privacy/Whois-tf2-preliminary.html). It included a table of privacy laws by country of registrar, created by the Registrar Constituency and the Non-Commercial Users Constituency - an updated version is available here. The report found, in section 2.3, that:

"After documenting and reviewing the examples of local privacy laws it is the Task Force's finding that different nations have very different privacy laws and that the determination whether they are applicable to the gTLD WHOIS situation is not an easy one. However, situations have arisen in which privacy laws or regulations have conflicted with WHOIS-related contractual obligations with ICANN.

...

The Task Force believes that there is an ongoing risk of conflict between a registrars' or registries' legal obligations under local privacy laws and their contractual obligations to ICANN.

Since the variety of the existing local privacy laws does not allow for a one-size-fits-all solution, the registrars and registries encountering such local difficulties should be allowed an exception from the contractual WHOIS obligation for the part of the WHOIS data in question by the local regulation, after proving the existence of such a conflict with a law or regulation. In addition, a procedure should be established for seeking to resolve such conflicts with local authorities as new regulations evolve in a way that promotes stability and uniformity of the WHOIS system. Such steps will undoubtedly achieve a greater legal certainty and foster the international competition on the domain name market."

The report recommended (section 3.3) that ICANN:

"...should develop and implement a procedure for dealing with the situation where a registrar (or registry, in thick registry settings) can credibly demonstrate that it is legally prevented by local mandatory privacy law or regulations from fully complying with applicable provisions of its ICANN contract regarding the collection, display and distribution of personal data via Whois. The goal of the procedure should be to resolve the conflict in a manner conducive to stability and uniformity of the Whois system."

The report gave details for the steps to be included in such a procedure:

  • "Written notification by the affected registrar/registry to ICANN with a detailed report which includes but is not limited to:
    • The law or regulation that causes the conflict.
    • The part of the Whois obligation in question.
    • The steps that will have to be taken to cure the conflict.
  • If data elements are removed this must be notified to the requester by the insertion of standardized notice in the Whois results advising the requester of the problem and, if possible, directing requester to another or alternative procedure for obtaining access to this data element.
  • Prompt notification from ICANN to the public informing it of the change and of the reasons for ICANN's forbearance from enforcement of full compliance with the contractual provision in question.
  • The changes must be archived on a public website for future research.

Except in those cases arising from a formal complaint or contact by a local law enforcement authority that will not permit consultation with ICANN prior to resolution of the complaint under local law, the procedure should be initiated using the following steps:

  • prompt notification by the affected registrar/registry to ICANN with detailed summary of the problem arising including:
    • the law or regulation that causes the conflict.
    • the part of the Whois obligation in question.
  • consultation by the registrar/registry with ICANN and other parties (which include government agencies) to try to resolve the problem / remove the impediment to full compliance with contract."

On 30 November 2004, the WHOIS Task Forces 1 and 2 produced Recommendation 1 . A Procedure for conflicts, when there are conflicts between a registrar's or registry's legal obligations under local privacy laws and their contractual obligations to ICANN (available at http://gnso.icann.org/issues/whois-privacy/whois-tf-conflict-30nov04.pdf). This recommendation was presented to the GNSO Council during the GNSO public forum at the ICANN meeting in Capetown in December 2004.

On February 17, 2005, the WHOIS task forces 1, 2 and 3 were combined into a single combined WHOIS Task Force. (http://www.gnso.icann.org/meetings/minutes-gnso-17feb05.html). On 2nd June 2005, the combined WHOIS task force was chartered by the GNSO Council with terms of reference and a set of tasks that required it to conclude its work on the 'conflicts' policy recommendation:

"(5) Determine how to resolve differences between a Registered Name Holder's, gTLD Registrar's, or gTLD Registry's obligation to abide by all applicable laws and governmental regulations that relate to the WHOIS service, as well as the obligation to abide by the terms of the agreements with ICANN that relate to the WHOIS service. [Note this task refers to the current work in the WHOIS task force called 'Recommendation 2', A Procedure for conflicts, when there are conflicts between a registrar's of registry's legal obligations under local privacy laws and their contractual obligations to ICANN." (available at http://gnso.icann.org/policies/terms-of-reference.html)

Accordingly, task force members continued to develop the recommendation through June 2005. The task force voted on May 24, 2005 to divide its work into a recommendation for consensus policy accompanied by advice for a procedure. Constituency statements on the recommendation were solicited by 21 July 2005.

The task force met on 30 August, 2005 to discuss the constituency statements. Further discussion was held on-list and by teleconference to discuss proposed changes to the recommendation and advice, including an illustrative 'straw poll' of task force members to ascertain the level of support for specific changes. The text of the proposed recommendations and the level of support is detailed in Annex 3 to this report. The straw poll results were indicative only and do not represent an official vote of the task force. The text in section 1.1 below represents the final version agreed by the task force and posted for public comments from 12 September to 2 October, 2005.

On 11 October, 2005, the task force met to review and discuss the public comments received during the public comment period from 12 September 2005 to 2 October 2005. The public comment report in section 3 of this report summarises the public comments received and also describes the result of the task force meeting on 11 October, 2005.

Also at the task force meeting on 11 October, 2005, the task force invited constituencies who wished to do so to submit a short final statement on any changes to the procedure/advice that were not accepted by the task force. One such statement was received from the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC), and it has been included following the IPC's original statement in section 2.3 (a) below. This supplementary statement was also supported by the Business Constituency and the Internet Service Providers and Connectivity Providers Constituency.

 

1.1 Text of recommendation and advice on a procedure

This is the final version of the recommendation and advice voted on by the task force. The constituency statements responded to an earlier version of this text.

WHOIS Task Force policy recommendation and advice on Whois conflicts with national and local privacy laws

Preamble

Task Force 2 spent over a year collecting data and working on the conflict between a registrar/registry's legal obligations under privacy laws and their contractual obligations to ICANN. Its report included the statement: "The Task Force believes that there is an ongoing risk of conflict between a registrar's or registry's legal obligations under local privacy laws and their contractual obligations to ICANN. TF2 Report, Section 2.3, http://www.gnso.icann.org/issues/whois-privacy/Whois-tf2-preliminary.html.

By vote of the Task Force, now merged, on May 24, 2005, the work of Task Force 2 is hereby divided into a recommendation for "consensus policy" accompanied by "well-developed advice for a procedure."

I. Task Force Policy for WHOIS Conflicts with Privacy Law

CONSENSUS POLICY RECOMMENDATION

In order to facilitate reconciliation of any conflicts between local/national mandatory privacy laws or regulations and applicable provisions of the ICANN contract regarding the collection, display and distribution of personal data via Whois, ICANN should:

  1. Develop and publicly document a procedure for dealing with the situation in which a registrar or registry can credibly demonstrate that it is legally prevented by local/national privacy laws or regulations from fully complying with applicable provisions of its ICANN contract regarding the collection, display and distribution of personal data via WHOIS.

  2. Create goals for the procedure which include:

    1. Ensuring that ICANN staff is informed of a conflict at the earliest appropriate juncture;
    2. Resolving the conflict, if possible, in a manner conducive to ICANN's Mission, applicable Core Values and the stability and uniformity of the Whois system;
    3. Providing a mechanism for the recognition, if appropriate, in circumstances where the conflict cannot be otherwise resolved, of an exception to contractual obligations to those registries/registrars to which the specific conflict applies with regard to collection, display and distribution of personally identifiable data via Whois; and
    4. Preserving sufficient flexibility for ICANN staff to respond to particular factual situations as they arise.

II. Text of Recommended Procedure

WELL-DEVELOPED ADVICE ON A PROCEDURE FOR HANDLING WHOIS CONFLICTS WITH PRIVACY LAW

Based on extensive research and negotiation among Task Force 2, together with the merged Task Force and ICANN staff, the following procedure for handling the policy recommendation set out in Section I above is set out as a Recommended Step-by-Step Procedure for Resolution of WHOIS Conflicts with Privacy Law. We encourage ICANN staff to use this Recommended Procedure as a starting point for developing the procedure called for in the Consensus Policy Recommendation above.

Step One: Notification of Initiation of Action

Once receiving notification of an investigation, litigation, regulatory proceeding or other government or civil action that might affect its compliance with the provisions of the RAA or other contractual agreement with ICANN dealing with the collection, display or distribution of personally identifiable data via Whois ("Whois Proceeding"), a Registrar/ Registry must within thirty (30) days provide ICANN's General Counsel (or other staff member as designated by ICANN) with the following information:

  • Summary description of the nature and status of the action (e.g., inquiry, investigation, litigation, threat of sanctions, etc.)
  • Contact information for the responsible official of the registrar/registry for resolving the problem.
  • Contact information for the responsible territorial government agency or other claimant and a statement from the registrar/registry authorizing ICANN to communicate with those officials or claimants on the matter. If the registrar/registry is prevented by applicable law from granting such authorization, the notification should document this.
  • The text of the applicable law or regulations upon which the local government or other claimant is basing its action or investigation, if such information has been indicated by the government or other claimant.

Meeting the notification requirement permits Registrars/Registries to participate in investigations and respond to court orders, regulations, or enforcement authorities in a manner and course deemed best by their counsel.

Depending on the specific circumstances of the Whois Proceeding, the Registrar/Registry may request that ICANN keep all correspondence between the parties confidential pending the outcome of the Whois Proceeding. It is recommended that ICANN respond favorably to such requests to the extent that they can be accommodated with other legal responsibilities and basic principles of transparency applicable to ICANN operations.

Step Two: Consultation

Unless impractical under the circumstances, we recommend that the ICANN General Counsel, upon receipt and review of the notification and, where appropriate, dialogue with the registrar/registry, consider beginning a process of consultation with the local/national enforcement authorities or other claimant together with the registrar/registry. The goal of the consultation process should be to seek to resolve the problem in a manner that preserves the ability of the registrar/registry to comply with its contractual obligations to the greatest extent possible.

The Registrar should attempt to identify a solution that allows the registrar to meet the requirements of both the local law and ICANN obligations. The General Counsel can assist in advising the registrar on whether the proposed solution meets the ICANN obligations.

If the Whois proceeding ends without requiring any changes and/or the required changes in registrar/registry practice do not, in the opinion of the General Counsel, constitute a deviation from the R.A.A. or other contractual obligation , then the General Counsel and the registrar/registry need to take no further action.

If the registrar/registry is required by local law enforcement authorities or a court to make changes in its practices affecting compliance with Whois-related contractual obligations before any consultation process can occur, the registrar/registry shall promptly notify the General Counsel of the changes made and the law/regulation upon which the action was based. The Registrar/Registry may request that ICANN keep all correspondence between the parties confidential pending the outcome of the Whois Proceeding. It is recommended that ICANN respond favorably to such requests to the extent that they can be accommodated with other legal responsibilities and basic principles of transparency applicable to ICANN operations.

Step Three: General Counsel analysis and recommendation

If the local/national government requires changes (whether before, during or after the consultation process described above) that, in the opinion of the General Counsel, prevent full compliance with contractual WHOIS obligations, ICANN should consider the following alternative to the normal enforcement procedure. Under this alternative, ICANN would refrain, on a provisional basis, from taking enforcement action against the registrar/registry for non-compliance, while the General Counsel prepares a report and recommendation and submits it to the ICANN Board for a decision. Such a report may contain:

  1. A summary of the law or regulation involved in the conflict;
  2. Specification of the part of the registry or registrar's contractual WHOIS obligations with which full compliance if being prevented;
  3. Summary of the consultation process if any under step two; and
  4. Recommendation of how the issue should be resolved, which may include whether ICANN should provide an exception for those registrars/registries to which the specific conflict applies from one or more identified WHOIS contractual provisions. The report should include a detailed justification of its recommendation, including the anticipated impact on the operational stability, reliability, security, or global interoperability of the Internet's unique identifier systems if the recommendation were to be approved or denied.

The registrar/registry should be provided a copy of the report and provided a reasonable opportunity to comment on it to the Board. The Registrar/Registry may request that ICANN keep such report confidential prior to any resolution of the Board. It is recommended that ICANN respond favorably to such requests to the extent that they can be accommodated with other legal responsibilities and basic principles of transparency applicable to ICANN operations.

Step Four: Resolution

Keeping in the mind the anticipated impact on the operational stability, reliability, security, or global interoperability of the Internet's unique identifier systems, the Board should consider and take appropriate action on the recommendations contained in the General Counsel's report as soon as practicable. Actions could include, but are not limited to:

  • Approving or rejecting the report's recommendations, with or without modifications;
  • Scheduling a public comment period on the report; or
  • Referring the report to GNSO for its review and comment by a date certain.

Step Five: Public Notice

The Board's resolution of the issue, together with the General Counsel's report, should ordinarily be made public, along with the reasons for it, and be archived on a public website (along with other related materials) for future research. Prior to release of such information to the public, the Registry/Registrar may request that certain information (including, but not limited to, communications between the Registry/Registrar and ICANN, or other privileged/confidential information) be redacted from the public notice. In the event that such redactions make it difficult to convey to the public the nature of the actions being taken by the Registry/Registrar, the General Counsel should work with the Registry/Registrar on an appropriate notice to the public describing the actions being taken and the justification for such actions.

Unless the Board decides otherwise, if the result of its resolution of the issue is that data elements in the registrar's Whois output will be removed or made less accessible, ICANN should issue an appropriate notice to the public of the resolution and of the reasons for ICANN's forbearance from enforcement of full compliance with the contractual provision in question.

Step Six: Ongoing Review

With substantial input from the relevant registries or registrars, together with all constituencies, there should be a review of the pros and cons of how the process worked, and the development of revisions designed to make the process better and more efficient, should the need arise again at some point in the future.

1.2 Summary of Task Force voting on the recommendation

The task force vote on the recommendation and advice for a procedure was held during a task force conference call on 6 September 2005. The recommendation and advice for a procedure were supported unanimously.

In favour

Opposed

Abstained

Commercial and Business Users Constituency

(Marilyn Cade, David Fares, Sarah Deutsch)

None

Jordyn Buchanan (Co-Chair)

Intellectual Property Constituency

(Steve Metalitz, Niklas Lagergren)

   

Non Commercial Users Constituency

(Milton Mueller, proxy for all NCUC task force members)

   

Internet Service Providers and Connectivity Providers Constituency

(Tony Harris)

   

Registrars Constituency

( Ross Rader, proxy for all registrars constituency task force members)

   

Registry Constituency

(David Maher, Ken Stubbs, Tuly Day)

   

2 Constituency statements

2.1 Commercial and Business User Constituency

This statement provides the BC views on the draft recommendation of the WHOIS TF on procedures to be followed in the event of a conflict between national privacy laws and registry/registrar contractual obligations to ICANN.

Background

The BC supports the task force recommendations on addressing possible conflicts between the national laws affecting a registry or registrar and the relevant ICANN contracts.

The BC has not seen examples of such conflicts and is not aware that they are a frequent occurrence. Many of the BC members operate in multiple regions of the world, and offer online services. Our members are familiar with privacy requirements for online services in jurisdictions where they operate. The BC is not aware of any increase in conflicts and does not expect this to change. However, the BC supports the TF recommendations in order to ensure transparent, consistent approaches to dealing with any such conflicts.

BC Position

It is the experience of the BC members that most of the established privacy regimes are typically based on the OECD privacy principles, requiring use and disclosure practices to be provided to the data subject at the time of data collection. ICANN’s present WHOIS requirements, as governed by the RAA, require notice and consent to the collection of personally identifiable data.

Thus, today, as required by existing ICANN agreements, registrants are notified of the collection and display of data and consent to the collection and display of data. This should meet the privacy requirements of existing national law.

In the view of the BC, registrants are obtaining domain names in order to engage in communications with the public and therefore, should provide accurate and complete information so that they can be “found” through a WHOIS query. The BC strongly supports accurate WHOIS data and recommends that all registrants be advised of the requirement to provide such data and that that data will be publicly displayed. The BC does support the use of third party services to provide any needed anonymity, such as third parties, registrars, or ISP services. The BC notes that any individual who prefers not to have such data has choices, both in the third party proxy registrant services, and also by utilizing an ISP or web hosting service who can provide personal web pages. Thus, the BC does not accept that individuals/as registrants, should be allowed to use false information as a protection of personal privacy.

The BC believes that the registrant notice should be sufficient; and therefore the BC fully supports the additional focus on notice to the registrants as provided in a separate working item of the WHOIS TF.

As regards the need for a standardized process to deal with national law conflicts, should a conflict with national law arise, the BC supports the need for a standardized transparent process that establishes the required procedures to resolve possible conflicts. The BC supports the TF’s proposed process as transparent, neutral and supportive of the needs of the broad ICANN community, while respecting the needs of the registries/registrars and of national law.

The BC supports the need to have an effective resolution to conflicts between national law and ICANN contractual requirements, to the extent economically feasible and practical, while respecting the needs of the global community for WHOIS access.

It is important that, to the greatest extent possible, disclosure to the broader community occur, when this procedure is undertaken between a registrar and ICANN.

We should seek to avoid “unique solutions”, to the greatest extent possible. Transparency of processes will ensure that there is the greatest possible consistency of any solutions that are developed in dealing with conflicts that do arise. Consistent with other ongoing reviews of consensus policy, this area of policy should be monitored, and in particular Council should review how the first exception is dealt with to see if there are any lessons to be learned.

The BC therefore supports the TF recommendations on dealing with conflicts between national laws and registry/registrar contractual obligations to ICANN.

Outreach for Statement on Conflicts of Law

  • The BC members were notified of the new terms of reference for the combined Task Force on 19 May 2005
  • The statement and the issues were discussed at the Luxembourg meeting 11 July 2005.
  • A conference call was held on 26 July 2005.
  • The draft statement on Conflicts of Law was posted to the BC list on 2 August 2005 and adopted after a 14 day period.

 

2.2 Non-Commercial User Constituency

NCUC Statement on "Whois Task Force Policy Recommendation and Advice on Whois Conflicts with National and local Privacy Laws."

The NCUC supports passage and quick implementation of the "Whois Task Force Policy Recommendation and Advice on Whois Conflicts with National Privacy Laws." The NCUC views this procedure as a stop-gap measure that needs to be implemented pending a more comprehensive reform of the Whois service to make it conform to ICANN's mission, national privacy laws and international privacy norms.

(The NCUC also submitted input to the public comment period in the form of a background paper - "Background Statement on International Data Protection Laws: Comments to ICANN from Commissioners and Organizations regarding WHOIS and the Protection of Privacy" - requesting that the paper form part of the record of the task force proceedings. This paper is included as Annex 2 to this final task force report. Also, the summary of national laws affecting privacy, developed by the NCUC and the Registrar Constituency, is available directly from the NCUC website.)

2.3 Intellectual Property Constituency

This statement responds to the request for constituency input on the Whois Task Force recommendations regarding conflicts between local law and Whois requirements. (The call for constituency statements is available at http://forum.icann.org/lists/gnso-dow123/msg00415.html).

Pursuant to requirements of the GSNO policy development process, outlined by the ICANN bylaws, see Annex A, Sec. 7(d), (available at http://www.icann.org/general/archive-bylaws/bylaws-19apr04.htm) the IPC came to the following conclusion.

The Intellectual Property Interests Constituency (IPC) generally supports the "Policy/Advice Recommendation on conflicts between national privacy laws and registries' or registrars' contractual obligations to ICANN."

While we agree with the statement by Whois Task Force 2 that "there is an ongoing risk of conflict between a registrar's or registry's legal obligations under local privacy laws and their contractual obligations to ICANN," we believe this risk is generally low in the gTLD environment. Public access to Whois and local privacy laws have coexisted for many years, and the likelihood is that this will continue to be the case in the future. The main reasons for this are (1) under ICANN's contracts, no domain name may be registered in a generic Top Level Domain until the registrant has been notified of, and consented to, the uses and disclosures that may be made of personally identifiable data submitted in connection with the registration; and (2) Whois data has historically been, and continues to be, collected for the broad purpose of enabling contact with the entities responsible for a given Internet resource. Current ICANN agreements and long-standing registrar practices make clear that public access is one of the purposes for which Whois data is collected. Indeed, the contractual obligations of the Registered Name Holder depend on the public's ability to access the information and use it.

However, because the risk of conflict between RAA obligations and national law, while probably very low, is not zero, we support the idea that ICANN should have a procedure in place for handling claims of such conflicts. The alternative, to have no formal procedure in place for this eventuality, could have adverse consequences. Registrars and registries might simply unilaterally change their policies and practices so that they fail to comply with ICANN agreements, and wait for compliance action from ICANN, if any. This could create uncertainty, insecurity and instability in the domain name system, and reduce uniformity of Whois policies. The result could be confusion and frustration of the purposes of the Whois database, to the detriment of intellectual property owners, businesses, consumers, parents, law enforcement agencies, and others who rely upon access to it.

The goals for the procedure, set out in item 2 of the Consensus Policy Recommendation, are critical:

  • ICANN should be made aware of a potential or asserted conflict as soon as possible, and where appropriate ICANN should actively assist in efforts to resolve the issue in a way that allows full compliance with both local law and contractual obligations. For example, local law may require that the registrar do more than the ICANN contract requires in order to obtain a consent from the registrant, which is legally valid under that jurisdiction's laws, for a use of Whois data. In such a circumstance, the registrar should be required to take those extra steps to obtain such consent, if it is practical to do so, and if consent obtained simply by following the contractual obligations would make the use problematic under local law.
  • The mechanism for recognizing an exception to contractual obligations should be exercised only in extraordinary circumstances, and should not be mandatory or automatic whenever efforts at resolution meet an impasse. Recognizing exceptions could have adverse impacts on the security and stability of the current system, and on the competitive playing field among registrars. Conceivably, the application of some local law could be so rigid or demanding that a registrar or registry subject to that law simply cannot fulfill its contractual obligations to ICANN and thus the contractual relationship must be phased out.
  • Finally, flexibility is critical, since we cannot now anticipate the specific contours of a future potential conflict, and the legal issues . beginning with which jurisdiction's law is even applicable . may be extremely complex.

In general, IPC believes the Recommended Procedure meets these goals and forms a good starting point for development of the policy. The General Counsel (or some other ICANN staff person) should be designated to receive notifications of potential conflicts, to engage in consultation efforts to help resolve them, and to inform the Board and ultimately the ICANN community of any action that needs to be taken. While this may include, in an extraordinary case, forbearance from full enforcement of contractual obligations, it may also include enforcement action to compel compliance.

IPC offers a few specific comments regarding the Recommended Procedure, which it urges the ICANN staff to consider in formulating its own procedure:

  1. We are concerned that the confidentiality provisions in Steps One, Two, and Three could, as a practical matter, foreclose the ability of interested parties to question or rebut the need for a departure from the RAA on a case-by-case basis. Such an ability to question a registrar's assertion of a conflict in a specific case is particularly important in light of the sparse or non-existent history of insurmountable conflicts between national laws and the RAA. Although we agree there could be circumstance in which confidentiality might be necessary, the policy should not favor such requests, and in fact should specify that they would be granted only in unusual circumstances.
  2. The statement near the end of Step One that "Meeting the notification requirements permits Registrar/Registries to participate in investigations and respond to court orders, regulations, or enforcement authorities in a manner and course deemed best by their counsel" is ambiguous. This language may be intended to provide an incentive for registrars to comply with the notification requirements set out in Step One. However, the consequence of failing to meet the notification requirements is not specified. On the other hand, it may be that this sentence is intended as an explanatory comment only.
  3. "Step Four: Resolution" should re-emphasize the goal of achieving uniform Whois disclosure requirements. Therefore, we suggest amending the first sentence to read as follows: "Keeping in the mind the anticipated impact on the operational stability, reliability, security, or global interoperability of the Internet's unique identifier systems, and the value of uniform Whois requirements applying to all Registrars/Registries to the extent possible, the Board should consider and take appropriate action on the recommendations contained in the General Counsel's report as soon as practicable."
  4. The Public Notice portion of the Procedure should include information about how information made less accessible can be accessed through other sources. For example, if a departure from the RAA resulted in the registrant's name but not address being made available, the notice should include information on alternative ways in which such information might be obtained. Therefore, the final sentence of the recommendation should be amended as follows: "Unless the Board decides otherwise, if the result of its resolution of the issue is that data elements in the registrar's Whois output will be removed or made less accessible, ICANN should issue an appropriate notice to the public of the resolution and of the reasons for ICANN's forbearance from enforcement of full compliance with the contractual provision in question, including relevant contact information for how such data might be accessed in appropriate circumstances."

i) If a Supermajority Vote was reached, a clear statement of the constituency's position on the issue;

See above.

(ii) If a Supermajority Vote was not reached, a clear statement of all positions espoused by constituency members;

N/A

(iii) A clear statement of how the constituency arrived at its position(s). Specifically, the statement should detail specific constituency meetings, teleconferences, or other means of deliberating an issue, and a list of all members who participated or otherwise submitted their views;

The IPC membership was notified of the request for a constituency statement on June 22. A draft constituency statement was circulated on July 8. The statement and the issue were discussed at the IPC meeting in Luxembourg on July 11. A revised version of the statement was circulated on July 20 and discussed on an IPC membership call on July 22. At that meeting, on a motion, which was seconded, it was agreed without objection to approve the constituency statement, subject to minor drafting changes.

(iv) An analysis of how the issue would affect the constituency, including any financial impact on the constituency;

As noted above, a sound policy in this area would benefit the constituency, whose members rely upon public access to Whois data to manage their domain name portfolios, enforce their rights against copyright and trademark infringers, and combat cybersquatting, among other purposes. The lack of a policy in this area could ultimately reduce this access to Whois data, make access less uniform and predictable, reduce transparency and accountability, and encourage infringers and other violators to utilize particular registrars or registries in order to evade detection or enforcement efforts. This would have an adverse financial impact on constituency members.

(v) An analysis of the period of time that would likely be necessary to implement the policy

While this question should be directed to ICANN staff, IPC believes that the recommended procedure is a sufficiently good starting point that a formal procedure could be promulgated within a short time after approval of this recommendation.

2.3(a) Oon 11 October, 2005, the task force invited constituencies who wished to do so to submit a short final statement on any changes to the procedure/advice that were not accepted by the task force. One such statement was received from the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC):

"IPC continues to support the Task Force recommendation on the topic of this report.  While we believe that the risk of conflict between the contractual obligations of a registrar or gTLD registry to ICANN, and the demands of national privacy laws, is very low, it is not zero, and a procedure ought to be in place for handling claims of such conflicts.  We believe that the recommendation could have been improved through the adoption of three amendments which were supported by three of the six constituencies participating in the Task Force but opposed by the others, even after they were supported in the public comment period. These amendments, which are summarized in the IPC constituency statement, would have increased transparency of the process, promoted the goal of uniformity of Whois policies across gTLDs, and aided members of the public who use Whois, in the unlikely event that the conflict procedure resulted in suppression of Whois data from public access.  We encourage the GNSO Council to re-examine these amendments when it considers this recommendation."

 

This statement was also supported by the Business Constituency and the Internet Service Providers and Connectivity Providers Constituency.

2.4 Registrar Constituency

A marked copy of the edits to the proposal recommended by the Registrar Constituency position is included below. These recommendations have been reviewed by the Registrar Constituency and ratified by a super-majority vote conducted in accordance with the Registrar Constituency Bylaws.

A summary of the recommended changes is as follows:

  1. Section II should be positioned as guidance for the staff in establishing recommended procedures for handling WHOIS conflicts with national law. Section II therefore would be a non-exhaustive, non-binding suggestion rather than a consensus policy recommendation that must be implemented as written.
  2. Section II, Step 2 should include additional language that ensures that the registrar in question has worked with staff to identify whether or not a solution exists that satisfies the requirements of local law and the ICANN policy in question.
  3. There are other minor stylistic edits redlined throughout the document.
  4. N.B. Additional text in section 2.4 is marked in italics and bold. Text that is suggested for deletion is marked in strikethrough mode.

    "CONSENSUS POLICY RECOMMENDATION

    In order to facilitate reconciliation of any conflicts between local/national mandatory privacy laws or regulations and applicable provisions of the ICANN contract regarding the collection, display and distribution of personal data via Whois, ICANN should:

    1. Develop and publicly document a procedure for dealing with the situation in which a registrar or registry can credibly demonstrate that it is legally prevented by local/national privacy laws or regulations from fully complying with applicable provisions of its ICANN contract regarding the collection, display and distribution of personal data via WHOIS.
    2. Create goals for the procedure which include:
      1. Ensuring that ICANN staff is informed of a conflict at the earliest appropriate juncture;
      2. Resolving the conflict, if possible, in a manner conducive to stability and uniformity of the Whois system;
      3. Providing a mechanism for the recognition, in appropriate circumstances where the conflict cannot be otherwise resolved, of an exception to contractual obligations for all registrars with regard to collection, display and distribution of personally identifiable data via Whois; and
      4. Preserving sufficient flexibility for ICANN staff to respond to particular factual situations as they arise.

    II. Text of Recommended Guidance on Procedure

    WELL-DEVELOPED ADVICE ON A PROCEDURE FOR HANDLING WHOIS CONFLICTS WITH PRIVACY LAW

    Based on extensive research and negotiation among Task Force 2 together with the merged Task Force and ICANN staff, the following procedure for handling the policy recommendation set out in Section I above is set out as a Recommended

    Step-by-Step Procedure for Resolution of WHOIS Conflicts with Privacy Law. We encourage ICANN staff to use this Recommended Procedure as a starting point for developing the procedure called for in the Consensus Policy Recommendation above.

    Step One: Notification of Initiation of Action

    Once receiving notification of an investigation, litigation, regulatory proceeding or other government or civil action that might affect its compliance with the provisions of the RAA or other contractual agreement with ICANN dealing with the collection, display or distribution of personally identifiable data via Whois ("Whois Proceeding"), a Registrar/ Registry must within thirty (30) days provide ICANN's General Counsel (or other staff member as designated by ICANN) with the following information:

    • Summary description of the nature and status of the action (e.g., inquiry, investigation, litigation, threat of sanctions, etc.)
    • Contact information for the responsible official of the registrar/registry for resolving the problem.
    • Contact information for the responsible territorial government agency or other claimant and a statement from the registrar/registry authorizing ICANN to communicate with those officials or claimants on the matter. If the registrar/registry is prevented by applicable law from granting such authorization, the notification should document this.
    • The text of the applicable law or regulations upon which the local government or other claimant is basing its action or investigation, if such information has been indicated by the government or other claimant.

    Meeting the notification requirement permits Registrars/Registries to participate in investigations and respond to court orders, regulations, or enforcement authorities in a manner and course deemed best by their counsel.

    Depending on the specific circumstances of the Whois Proceeding, the Registrar/Registry may request that ICANN keep all correspondence between the parties confidential pending the outcome of the Whois Proceeding. It is recommended that ICANN respond favorably to such requests to the extent that they can be accommodated with other legal responsibilities and basic principles of transparency applicable to ICANN operations.

    Step Two: Consultation

    Unless impractical under the circumstances, we recommend that the ICANN General Counsel, upon receipt and review of the notification and, where appropriate, dialogue with the registrar/registry, consider beginning a process of consultation with the local/national enforcement authorities or other claimant together with the registrar/registry. The goal of the consultation process should be to seek to resolve the problem in a manner that preserves the ability of the registrar/registry to comply with its contractual obligations to the greatest extent possible.

    The Registrar should attempt to identify a solution that allows the registrar to meet the requirements of both the local law and ICANN obligations. The General Counsel can assist in advising the registrar on whether the proposed solution meets the ICANN obligations.

    If the Whois proceeding ends without requiring any changes and/or the required changes in registrar/registry practice do not, in the opinion of the General Counsel, constitute a deviation from the R.A.A. or other contractual obligation , then the General Counsel and the registrar/registry need to take no further action.

    If the registrar/registry is required by local law enforcement authorities or a court to make changes in its practices affecting compliance with Whois-related contractual obligations before any consultation process can occur, the registrar/registry shall promptly notify the General Counsel of the changes made and the law/regulation upon which the action was based. The Registrar/Registry may request that ICANN keep all correspondence between the parties confidential pending the outcome of the Whois Proceeding. It is recommended that ICANN respond favorably to such requests to the extent that they can be accommodated with other legal responsibilities and basic principles of transparency applicable to ICANN operations.

    Step Three: General Counsel analysis and recommendation

    If the local/national government requires changes (whether before, during or after the consultation process described above) that, in the opinion of the General Counsel, prevent full compliance with contractual WHOIS obligations, ICANN should consider the following alternative to the normal enforcement procedure. Under this alternative, ICANN would refrain, on a provisional basis, from taking enforcement action against the registrar/registry for non-compliance, while the General Counsel prepares a report and recommendation and submits it to the ICANN Board for a decision. Such a report may contain:

    1. A summary of the law or regulation involved in the conflict;
    2. Specification of the part of the registry or registrar's contractual WHOIS
    3. obligations with which full compliance if being prevented;
    4. Summary of the consultation process if any under step two; and
    5. Recommendation of how the issue should be resolved, which may include whether ICANN should provide an exception for <strikethrough> the </strikethrough> all registrars/registries from one or more identified WHOIS contractual provisions. The report should include a detailed justification of its recommendation, including the anticipated impact on the operational stability, reliability, security, or global interoperability of the Internet's unique identifier systems if the recommendation were to be approved or denied.

    The registrar/registry should be provided a copy of the report and provided a reasonable opportunity to comment on it to the Board. The Registrar/Registry may request that ICANN keep such report confidential prior to any resolution of the Board. It is recommended that ICANN respond favorably to such requests to the extent that they can be accommodated with other legal responsibilities and basic principles of transparency applicable to ICANN operations."

    End of proposed changes to the recommendation and advice.

    The Registrar Constituency proposed no changes to the remaining sections of the procedure: Step Four: Resolution and Step Five: Public Notice

2.5 Registry Constituency

Pursuant to requirements of the GSNO policy development process, the Registry Constituency (RyC) has concluded:

I. Constituency position

The RyC supports the general principles of the Policy/Advice Recommendation 2 on conflicts between national privacy laws and registries' or registrars' contractual obligations to ICANN. The RyC further believes that the recommended procedures should deal with the possibility of the following:

  1. If exceptions to contractual requirements are made to accommodate local law(s) for one registrar or registry in a local jurisdiction, should the same exceptions be extended to other registrars and registries in that jurisdiction and, if so, how should that take place; and

  2. If exceptions to contractual requirements are made to accommodate local law(s), it is possible that the variation in requirements for different registrars or registries will begin to create a fragmented experience for users and therefore create a need to revisit the contractual requirement in a broader way.

The RyC also believes that the WHOIS Combined Task Force should include in its final recommendation a further recommendation that affording tiered access to WHOIS data be available to registrars and registries as a means of complying with local legal requirements when applicable.

II. Method for Reaching Agreement on RyC Position

The RyC drafted and circulated via email a constituency statement, soliciting input from its members. RyC members suggested edits and additions to the draft which were subsequently incorporated into the final constituency statement. The statement was adopted by a unanimous vote. One constituency member, RegistryPro did not take part in the vote.

III. Impact on Constituency

The Policy/Advice Recommendation 2 in its present form would assist the members of the RyC in fulfilling their legal obligations in their respective jurisdictions. It should be noted, however, that the Policy/Advice Recommendation 2 does not purport to provide complete assurance that potential conflicts can be avoided or resolved.

IV. Time Period Necessary to Complete Implementation

We anticipate that the Policy/Advice Recommendation 2 supported by this statement would not require an extensive time period to implement.

2.6 Internet Service Providers & Connectivity Providers Constituency

Introduction

The Internet Service Providers & Connectivity Providers Constituency (ISPCP Constituency) herein provides input to the combined Whois Task Force on its recommendations on policies related to the Whois database as required by the ICANN GNSO policy development process. Specifically, the task force has put forth a recommendation on procedures to be followed in the event of a conflict between national privacy laws and registry/registrar contractual obligations to ICANN

The ISPCP constituency views on conflict of law resolution process

The ISPCP is generally supportive of the task force recommendations on how conflicts shall be addressed in the event of a conflict between the national laws of a registrar or registry's home base and its ICANN contract.

The ISPCP does not deem such conflicts to be a common occurrence in the gTLD or ccTLD space and further, we do not see any indicators that this trend is likely to change in the foreseeable future. We are guided in our belief by the examination of the record over the course of the past several years where, in the gTLD and ccTLD space, registries and registrars have rarely had reason to challenge their contractual obligations related to Whois disclosures as a result of conflicting national or local privacy laws.

This was further evidenced by the previous Whois Task Force 2 findings during a survey completed in 2004. Within the EU member states' ccTLD operators, those who submitted survey responses indicated that they work closely with their respective country's data protection authorities and are in full compliance with their respective privacy laws.

ISPCP Position

The majority of established privacy regimes throughout many regions of the world require that actual information use and disclosure practices be limited to the list of intended use and disclosure practices that are provided to the data subject at the time of data collection. Accordingly, once more conspicuous disclosure is provided and consent obtained, the subsequent use of the registrant data for Whois purposes, pursuant to the ICANN contract, is not likely to be in conflict with local or national laws.

The ISPCP believes that once registrants receive notice of the intended uses of their registration data as it relates to the Whois database, there is little reason for future use in accordance with the contract terms to somehow come in conflict with applicable privacy laws. The likelihood of a conflict is further reduced once the more conspicuous notice requirements go into affect, and registrants are better alerted to the possible uses of the personally identifiable registration data they provide.

Nevertheless, if a scenario arises whereby such conflict does arise, the ISPCP strongly favors the implementation of a process, clearly defined and transparent, that sets forth the steps in resolving any possible conflict. In reviewing the proposal set forth by the Whois task force, the ISPCP finds it to be well thought out, neutral and respectful of the needs and interests of the ICANN community and the registry/registrar organizations. Our constituency believes that no organization should be placed in a situation where it must choose between breaking its contractual obligations or violate applicable law, and we do not believe that any of the ICANN RAA terms are likely to do that.

Based upon the forgoing values, we strongly urge the Whois task force to consider the following concepts prior to finalizing its policy recommendations related to conflict of law issues.

  • Transparency is paramount. It is not only a major tenet of the ICANN policy development process, it is also an implicit aspect of most privacy laws. Without full disclosure and transparency in the manner that information is collected and used, there can hardly be a viable notion of privacy protection. While confidentiality of actions, negotiations and discussions may be necessary in some instances, it is not always a requirement or the most useful manner in which to resolve conflict. Thus, the ISPCP believes that to the extent possible, the ICANN community be notified when the resolution process is begun and as much as possible throughout the process as well.
  • Outcomes should be uniform. Some have indicated that legal obstacles will be used by registries or registrars to obtain competitive advantages, resulting in forum shopping. The ISPCP has not seen any evidence that this is in fact reality. Nevertheless, in order to remove the perception that this may be happening, the recommendation should emphasize the importance of uniformity and consistency of handling conflicts should they arise.
  • It is worthy to note that transparency of the process will inevitably lead to more uniformity and better consistency among conflicts that do arise.
  • Review should be ongoing. The ISPCP believes that there will be some lessons learned from the first instance where this process is implemented. With substantial input from the relevant registry or registrar, together with all constituencies, there should be a review of the pros and cons of how the process worked, and the development of revisions designed to make the process better and more efficient, should the need arise again at some point in the future.
  • Again, we'd like to highlight the fact that this goal will be easier met when there is transparency and uniformity throughout the process.
  • Accuracy is the goal. If this and other recommendations do not work towards improved accuracy, the system will remain substantially flawed. The ISPCP task force members have participated in good faith to achieve the improved privacy protections that are important to community. The constituency expects that all members of the task force, and the chair and ICANN staff especially, show commitment to improved accuracy and quickly move on to developing changes aimed at the same.

ISPCP Conclusion The ISPCP hereby thanks the task force for its work in this matter and looks forward to seeing a better Whois experience for all stakeholders who develop, populate, oversee and use the Whois databases.

 

3 Public comment report

The Public Comment Report on the preliminary task force report is based on public comments received during a public comment period from 12 September 2005 to 2 October 2005 on the ICANN website.

Of the 10 comments received, seven were directly relevant to the preliminary task force report. These comments have been summarised below but may be accessed in full by visiting the relevant public comments archive. One comment - from the GNSO's Non-Commercial Users Constituency - consisted of a background document ' "International Data Protection Laws: Comments to ICANN from Commissioners and Organizations Regarding WHOIS and the Protection of Privacy'. This document does not address the specific topic of this task force report and has been included in Annex 2 of this final task force report. The remaining six public comments below are summarised in order of their publication on the ICANN website.

 

3.1 Comments from the International Trademark Association - WHOIS Subcommittee

The International Trademark Association (INTA) WHOIS Subcommittee found the proposal generally to be comprehensive and thorough should issues arrise, but advocated extreme caution in order to minimise departures from compliance with the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), maintaining a level playing field and ensuring predictability for users.

On the issue of consent, the INTA subcommittee was unaware of any situation that would require a departure from the RAA because ICANN agreements and registrar practice make clear the purpose and use of WHOIS data and because the subcommittee is unaware of legal prohibitions against obtaining consent. The preliminary task force report of Task Force 2 (available here) was not seen to demonstrate a need for departures from the RAA. Registrars are already required by the RAA to obtain registrants' consent to publication of their contact information and the INTA subcommittee believes this is sufficient to meet local privacy laws in most or all cases. ICANN's proper role is to clarify that public dissemination is an intended purpose of the data by amending the RAA rather than grant exceptions to registrars.

Parts of the INTA subcommittee's comments on the draft policy and procedure largely echoed those of the IPC constituency detailed above in section 2.3 of this report. Further comments were made as follows:

"             B.         The subcommittee questions whether the procedure in Step One should apply to a mere "investigation" that "might affect" a registrar's compliance. It may be beneficial either to provide additional definitions concerning these terms or to require that some kind of enforcement proceeding has been initiated, or that the investigation be of the specific registrar’s policies. The language of the proposed policy might encourage registrars to seek waivers every time there is some government "investigation" of any registrar’s privacy policies --or even the privacy policies of any party receiving any personal data of any kind apart from the Whois system -- under the argument that it "might affect" the registrar's compliance.

     C.        The statement near the end of Step One that “Meeting the notification requirements permits Registrar/Registries to participate in investigations and respond to court orders, regulations, or enforcement authorities in a manner and course deemed best by their counsel” is ambiguous.  This language appears intended to provide an incentive for registrars to comply with the notification requirements set out in Step One.  However, the consequence of failing to meet the notification requirements are not specified.  If this language is intended to suggest that the registrar cannot participate in investigations or respond to enforcement authorities until it has met its notification requirements, it would likely be unenforceable, so the policy should instead specify alternative, realistic, enforceable consequences; in the alternative, the sentence should be removed in its entirety to eliminate the ambiguity.

      D.        In the first paragraph under "Step Two: Consultation," the last sentence should be amended to specify that the registrar must obtain consent of the registrants to the publication of their Whois data, in order to be considered as having complied with its contractual obligations to the greatest extent possible. In other words, the last sentence of the first paragraph should be amended to read as follows: “The goal of the consultation process should be to seek to resolve the problem in a manner that preserves the ability of the registrar/registry to comply with its contractual obligations to the greatest extent possible, including via obtaining consent of registrants to the publication of their Whois data."

            F.         The Public Notice portion of the Procedure should include information about how information made less accessible can be accessed through other sources.  For example, if a departure from the RAA resulted in the registrant’s name but not address being made available, the notice should include information on how such information might be obtained or how to contact the relevant data protection authorities to gain access to the data.  Therefore, the final sentence of the recommendation should be amended as follows: “Unless the Board decides otherwise, if the result of its resolution of the issue is that data elements in the registrar’s Whois output will be removed or made less accessible, ICANN should issue an appropriate notice to the public of the resolution and of the reasons for ICANN’s forbearance from enforcement of full compliance with the contractual provision in question, including relevant contact information for how such data might be accessed in appropriate circumstances.” "

3.2 Comments by individuals:

The Rev. D. Ceabron Williams did not directly address the procedure and advice but commented that personal information such as home telephone number and home address should not be required and should remain private.

Hans Klein, Director, Internet and Public Policy Project, Georgia Institute of Technology applauded the recommendations in the report, saying it was right and important that ICANN take steps to protect privacy. Mr. Klein also commented that "the proposals would be better if they were stronger. Ultimately, ICANN should not incorporate privacy law be exception but as a matter of right and principle."

Kenneth Coney said he was "horrified and appalled that ICANN would propose to allow Internet registrars to keep their identity private", arguing that domain name registration is a commercial privilege and not a right. If registrants do not provide their information, they should not be allowed to register domain names, Mr. Coney argued, saying that if ICANN held firm, legislators around the world would change their laws accordingly. Mr. Coney said the proposed change would affect Internet credit card purchases because the identity of firms and individuals would be harder to find out. Secondly, Mr. Coney said that it would be harder to identify and prosecute spammers. Mr. Coney questioned the motivation of those seeking to change the rules, saying this "smacks of co-conspiracy". He said the fact that potential registrants in many countries are not lobbying their legislators to bring about changes in national laws to allow registrants to "declare themselves" was "a possible indicator of nefarious intent". Mr. Coney said the comment period was too short and designed to prevent average Internet users from providing input - pointing out that MSNBC, Reuters and CNN did not mention the proposed rule change. Finally, Mr. Coney said he would not divulge who had sent him the information on the public comment period in case he "might not learn of the next proposed rule change in a timely fashion".

3.3 Comments from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said that EPIC supports the proposal, noting that it is "a critical first step in reforming WHOIS privacy policies, and that the proposal should be implemented immediately." EPIC's comments said the proposal would give registrants somewhat more security in their ability to apply privacy protections offered to them by law, make registrars less likely to have to choose between honouring contractual requirements under the RAA and national laws, and give certainty to registrants as to whether registrars will comply with the RAA or applicable law.

EPIC said a comprehensive reform of WHOIS privacy policy is crucial. The proposal creates a significant burden of proof on registrars to "prove" or "credibly demonstrate" a conflict of law, creating a high bar for a registrar to find a conflict, and possibly encouraging registrars to simply hope that the conflict will go unnoticed or be unenforced.  As the procedure only appears to deal with situations where enforcement action has already been taken, registrars who see clear conflicts between the RAA and local laws have no clear procedure to follow, and are not guaranteed an exception. This "discourages voluntary compliance with local law, and registrars must wait to be sued, prosecuted, or investigated before they may apply for an exception that would allow them to comply both with ICANN policy and the law."

EPIC also said that user consent is often insufficient to reconcile these problems as a "mere boilerplate demand by registrars that users consent to Whois distribution of their private information cannot universally meet the requirements of every data protection law, present and future." Also, consent disclaimers do not protect users' privacy rights. Finally, EPIC said that ICANN should " take steps to assure the rights of Internet users, not merely recalcitrantly follow in the footsteps of various local governments" by taking " further and more thorough action to protect users' privacy."
3.4 Comments from the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA)

The American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) supported the same changes to the procedure and advice proposed by the Intellectual Property Constituency of the GNSO and supported by the International Trademark Association. These specific changes are described in section 2.3 of this document.

The AIPLA generally agreed with the IPC statement (section 2.3 above) and commented further that WHOIS data "should be widely and immediately available to the general public on an anonymous basis, for free, and with only limited restrictions on how the data can be used. Any exceptions to this general rule should only be applied after careful consideration, and should be targeted to specific circumstances making such an exception necessary." Along with the IPC and INTA, AIPLA said the risk of conflict between obligations under the RAA and national law is very low, and urged ICANN to "exercise caution to minimize departures from compliance with the RAA by registrars."

3.5 Public comments report - conclusion

Finally, the Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) submitted a public comment in the form of a background paper - "Background Statement on International Data Protection Laws: Comments to ICANN from Commissioners and Organizations regarding WHOIS and the Protection of Privacy" - requesting that the paper form part of the record of the task force proceedings. This paper is included as Annex 2 to this final task force report.

The WHOIS Task Force met on October 22th, 2005 to discuss the public comments received and decide if the proposal or report should be substantively changed in the light of those comments. Each comment was discussed individually and the task force decided to leave the procedure and advice unchanged, i.e. not to accept any of the proposed changes. The task force report was then updated to include summaries of the public comments.

 

Annex 1

Relevant provisions of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement

"3.7.2 Registrar shall abide by applicable laws and governmental regulations."

 

Annex 2

International Data Protection Laws: Comments to ICANN from Commissioners and Organizations regarding WHOIS and the Protection of Privacy

The Noncommercial Users Constituency (NCUC) feels that ICANN and the WHOIS TF must pay close attention to the authoritative formal written comments made by Data Protection Commissioners and their organizations. These opinions are exactly the type of expert input ICANN regularly asks for in its policy-making process. Further, these opinions come from those charged with interpretation, investigation and ultimately enforcement under their national laws. Ultimately, it is worthwhile to heed their advice, instruction and warnings.

A: Comprehensive Data Protection Laws – An Overview
The European Union, as one of its early legislative acts, created comprehensive data protection legislation for its citizens in the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive, 95/46/EC. The goal of the legislation was to “remove the obstacles to the free movement of data without diminishing the protection of personal data.”
Under the EU Data Protection Directive, all EU citizens are entitled to protections in the collection and use of their personal data. The first three principles of data protection are:

A. “Data must be processed fairly and lawfully.”
B. “They must be collected for explicit and legitimate purposes and used accordingly.”
C. “Data must be relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose for which they are processed.”

Codified in Article 6 of the EU Directive, the law requires that these principles be adopted into the data protection laws of each Member State. Further, the Directive gives EU citizens the right to file complaints regarding violations of their data protection rights and receive compensation for certain injuries (Articles 14 and 23). It also mandates that each Member State establish one (or more) Data Protection Authorities to monitor the laws within the country, investigate, intervene, and “engage in legal proceedings” where rights are being violated (Article 28).

The EU Directive applies directly to the 25 members of the EU: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom, Greece, Spain and Portugal, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Further, very similar laws have been adopted by other countries, including Israel. In addition, Canada adopted its own version of comprehensive data protection laws called the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

Approximately half of all ICANN-accredited registrars are based in countries with comprehensive data protection laws, and a growing percentage of domain name registrants come from these countries as well.

B: International and National Laws Protecting Privacy of Natural Persons:
Opinions from Leading Data Protection Authorities to ICANN

Experts on data protection laws for their countries and regions have published a number of opinions on the meaning and effect of these laws. In these carefully written opinions, the data protection authorities took the time to instruct ICANN on data protection principles, show that personal data is located in the WHOIS database, and guide ICANN towards changes to bring the WHOIS databases into compliance with international and national data protection laws.

1. The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party
Established by the EU Data Protection Directive 95/46, comprised of senior members of each member state’s data protection authority
On February 2003, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (WP) wrote a strong opinion to ICANN and the world expressing the deep concerns of its members regarding the collection and publication of personal data in the WHOIS databases. According to Dr. Giovanni Buttarelli, Secretary-General of Italy’s Data Protection Authority and a principal author of the paper, over 25 countries worked on this opinion and it was intended to send a strong message to ICANN.

The Article 29 WP Opinion is definitive and clear:

a. Data Protection Commissions are receiving complaints regarding misuse of their personal data in the WHOIS databases:
“more and more individuals (private persons) are registering their own domain names and there have been complaints about improper use of the WHOIS data in several countries. The registration of domain names by individuals raises different legal considerations than that of companies…”

b. Fundamental rights and principles of the EU Data Protection Directive do apply to the WHOIS databases:
“Article 6c of the Directive imposes clear limitations concerning the collection and processing of personal data meaning that data should be relevant and not excessive for the specific purpose. In that light it is essential to limit the amount of personal data to be collected and processed.”

c. Changes must be made to bring the WHOIS databases into compliance with the EU Data Protection Directive:
“where an individual registers a domain name....there is not legal ground justifying the mandatory publication of personal data referring to this person.”
AND
“In the light of the proportionality principle [of the EU Directive], it is necessary to look for less intrusive methods that would still serve the purpose of the Whois directories without having all data directly available on-line to everybody.”

According to the Article 29 Working Party, it was very clear that the existing collection and publication of millions of pieces of personal data in the WHOIS database WHOIS is not consistent with the EU Data Protection Directive -- and that significant changes must be made to bring the WHOIS databases into compliance with the data protection laws and protections of the EU.

The Article 29 WP recently repeated and affirmed this 2003 Opinion. On January 18, 2005, in a detailed statement about intellectual property owners collecting too much personal data as part of digital rights management, the Article 29 WP affirmed its deep concerns about WHOIS.

2. International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications
National and international data protection organizations, scientists and specialists in privacy and telecommunications

Like the Article 29 WP, the International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications (International WG) includes Data Protection Commissioners and international authorities on telecommunication and privacy. At the time of its opinions to ICANN in 2000 and 2003, the International WG was chaired by Dr. Hansjürgen Garstka, Commissioner for Data Protection for Berlin. The 2000 opinion (called the “Common Position”) expressed deep concerns about the WHOIS database:

a. It stated that data protection laws clearly apply to the personal data collected and published in the WHOIS database:
“the collection and publication of personal data of domain name holders gives itself rise to data protection and privacy issues.”
b. It instructed ICANN on the basic principles of data protection laws:
“The amount of data collected and made publicly available in the course of the registration of a domain name should be restricted to what is essential to fulfill the purpose specified.”
c. It drew clear conclusions that the existing collection and publication of personal data for registrants in the gTLDs violates international and national data protection laws:
“The current Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) developed by ICANN does not reflect the goal of the protection of personal data of domain name holders in a sufficient way.”
AND
“The right not to have telephone numbers published - as recognized in most of the national telecommunications data protection regimes should not be abolished when registering a domain name.”
In a follow-up letter to ICANN in 2003, the International WG repeated its position and concerns to then ICANN president Stuart Lynn. The WG urged ICANN to take its instructions and concerns into account “when reshaping ICANN’s WHOIS policy.”

3. The European Commission, Internal Market Directorate-General
Written opinion and speeches

In January 2003, the European Commission’s Internal Market Directorate-General expressed its concerns regarding personal data in the WHOIS database in a written opinion to ICANN. The EC discussed the basic data protection principles and rights under the EU Directive. It also gave ICANN some stark orders to:
“limit the amount of personal data to be collected and processed”
AND
“look for less intrusive methods that would still serve the purpose of the WHOIS database without having all data available to everybody.”

Subsequent written comments of officials of the European Commission’s Internal Market DG to ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee (GAC) on May 12, 2003, pointed out the stark impact of WHOIS policies on citizens living in countries with comprehensive data protection rights:

“It does not seem reasonable that gTLDs, which by their nature are global, should operate in a manner that results in the loss of legally established rights for a significant part of their client base.”

In speeches to ICANN groups, EC Internal Market officials repeated these requirements and provided additional insight to their concerns and conclusions. At the Montreal ICANN meeting in 2003, Diana Alfonso Blas shared with ICANN the:
“Need to respect the existing data protection framework in Europe, contracts can in no case overrule the law”
“Need to look for privacy-enhancing ways to run the Whois directories in a way that serves the original purpose whilst protecting the rights of individuals”
And the EC’s very realistic conclusion that:
“not everything that might seem useful or desirable is legally possible!”

George Papavlou delivered similar points in his discussions of “WHOIS data: The EU legal principles” at the Rome ICANN meeting in 2004.

C: The Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
The Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) went into effect on January 1, 2001. Through a phase-in process, its laws reached each private organization “that collects, uses or discloses personal information in the course of a commercial activity within a province” on January 1, 2004.

On November 12, 2005, CIRA (the Canadian domain registration authority for .CA) posted for public comment its new policy to protect personal data from mandatory publication in the .CA WHOIS. Updated to comply with PIPEDA, CIRA’s new rules propose that the .CA WHOIS will list only limited technical data for individuals: the domain name, registrar’s name, registration and expiration date, date of last change , suspension (if any), the IP address and name servers. http://www.cira.ca/en/Whois/whois_policy.html.

The exception is if the domain name registrant specifically requests publication of his/her name, address, phone, fax and email (a strict and completely voluntary “opt-in” basis). CIRA worked with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to ensure that these WHOIS policies comply with the national data protection laws.

It seems safe to say that today there are strong and growing expectations among Canadian domain name registrants for protection of privacy and personal data in the WHOIS databases.

D. Australia: Domain name privacy without comprehensive data protection legislation
In 2002 the Australian registration authority, auDA removed identifying information from the .AU WHOIS database, except for technical contact. This innovative policy applied not only to the domain name data of individuals, but also companies and organizations. According to comments posted by those involved in the process, the changes protect not only the privacy of individuals and families, but small and home-based businesses, hobbyists and those who run political, social and community websites.

Conclusion:
The authorities from countries with comprehensive data protection laws have spoken clearly and frequently to ICANN. They also have been patient with the long ICANN WHOIS process. Now it is time for ICANN to listen. ICANN should recognize the warnings — that the WHOIS databases for the gTLDs do not comply with data protection laws — and act to limit the amount of personal data we collect and publish in the WHOIS databases as quickly as possible.

In conclusion, ICANN is not above or outside national data protection laws. In every other area of Internet and telecommunications operations, companies find ways to protect personal data and run successful and profitable businesses. ICANN can and must do the same.

Footnotes

(1) On July 25, 2005, the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) submitted a “Background Paper” to ICANN ‘s WHOIS Task Force (TF); http://forum.icann.org/lists/gnso-dow123/msg00465.html. Despite an entire section that purported to analyze international and national data protection laws (Section B), not once in this section did the IPC quote or even refer to the authoritative opinions received by ICANN and the WHOIS TF from Data Protection Commissioners and their organizations, including the Article 29 Working Party established by the EU Data Protection Directive to advise and interpret the law. David Maher, longtime WHOIS TF representative from the Registry Constituency and longtime trademark attorney, called the IPC’s paper “deceptive.” He also stated that the IPC’s conclusion that EU data protection laws favor the continued the WHOIS with its full global publication of personal data to be a “distorted view” of the European Commission position. His views were so strong that Maher called on the IPC to withdraw its paper. The IPC declined. Maher email to WHOIS TF, 17 August, 2005, http://forum.icann.org/lists/gnso-dow123/msg00514.html. Steve Metalitz replied on behalf of IPC on 26 August, 2005; http://forum.icann.org/lists/gnso-dow123/msg00540.html .

(3) Data Protection in the EU, “Rules Data Controllers Must Adhere To,” page 6.

(4) Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, in all languages of the EU, at http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/fsj/privacy/law/index_en.htm.

(5) In the IPC paper, its authors concede that they do “not purport to be experts in every potential international and national law that may protect the privacy of natural persons.” It is not clear why they failed to cite the experts who have spoken on these subjects.

(6) See generally, Electronic Privacy Information Center, “WHOIS Discussion Gets a Dose of Privacy Law –Again,” http://www.epic.org/privacy/whois/.

(7) Opinion 2/2003 on the application of the data protection principles to the Whois directories, http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/fsj/privacy/docs/wpdocs/2003/wp76_en.pdf.

(8) Opinion 2/2003 on the application of the data protection principles to the Whois directories, in all languages of the EU, at http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/fsj/privacy/workinggroup/wpdocs/2003_en.htm.

(9) EU Warns of DRM Abuse, including full text of Article 29 WP’s Working document on data protection issues related to intellectual property rights January 18, 2005, http://p2pnet.net/story/3821.

(10) International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications, Common Position on Privacy and Data Protection in Telecommunications, May 4/5 2000, http://www.datenschutz-berlin.de/doc/int/iwgdpt/dns_en.htm.

(11) Letter from Hansjürgen Garstka to Stuart Lynn Regarding Whois Issues, 15 January 2003, http://www.icann.org/correspondence/garstka-to-lynn-15jan03.htm.

(12) Contribution of the European Commission to the general discussion on the Whois database raised by the Reports produced by the ICANN Whois Task Force, January 22, 2003; http://www.dnso.org/dnso/notes/ec-comments-whois-22jan03.pdf.

(13) Whois Data, Brussels, 12 May 2003 (copy in NCUC archives).

(14) Diana ALONSO BLAS, LL.M., European Commission, DG Market, Unit Data Protection and Media, June 23, 2003, Privacy and Data protection consideration of the Whois directories discussion, powerpoint slides (copy in NCUC archives).

(15) Interestingly, the IPC paper used Canada and Canadian opinion to conclude that Canadians expect and want all their personal data (including home addresses, home phone numbers and personal email addresses) to be publicly published in the WHOIS data published. In light of the actual changes taking place in Canada, it is puzzling why the IPC would issue a public statement with conclusions that are completely contrary to Canadian direction.

(16) AU Privacy Policy, http://www.auda.org.au/policies/auda-2002-10/.

 

 Annex 3 Results of Task Force indicative straw poll on proposed changes to the recommendation and advice

On 6 September, 2005 the Task Force held an informal and purely indicative 'straw poll' of task force members to ascertain the level of support for specific proposed changes to the recommendation and advice. The text of those proposed changes and the informal level of support for each is illustrated in the table below.

Indicative 'straw poll' on proposed changes to recommendation & advice
PROPOSED REVISION STRAW POLL VOTE

Proposed revision 1

Paragraph 2 (c) of the policy recommendation would be changed to the following (insertion marked in bold italics):

 
"c. Providing a mechanism for the recognition, if appropriate, in circumstances where the conflict cannot be otherwise resolved, of an exception to contractual obligations to those registries/registrars to which the specific conflict applies with regard to collection, display and distribution of personally identifiable data via Whois; and
 
Similarly, sub-paragraph iv of Step Three would be replaced with the following (changes marked in bold italics again):
 
Recommendation of how the issue should be resolved, which may include whether ICANN should provide an exception for those registrars/registries to which the specific conflict applies from one or more identified WHOIS contractual provisions. The report should include a detailed justification of its recommendation, including the anticipated impact on the operational stability, reliability, security, or global interoperability of the Internet's unique identifier systems if the recommendation were to be approved or denied. "

Vote to accept the revision:

6 votes - NCUC (Milton Mueler), CBUC (Marilyn Cade, David Fares, Sarah Deutsch), IPC (Steve Metalitz, Niklas Lagergren)

 

Votes to reject the revision:

4 votes - Registry C. (David Maher, Tuli Day, Ken Stubbs,), Registrars C. (Tim Ruiz, only registrar on call, Jordyn does not
vote).

Revision 1 accepted by the task force

Proposed revision 2

Adding an additional paragraph to the end of the policy recommendation, as follows:

 
Revision 2 rejected by the task force

Proposed revision 3

The proposal would replace the last paragraph of step one as follows:

"Depending on the specific circumstances of the Whois Proceeding, the Registrar/Registry may request that ICANN keep all correspondence between the parties confidential pending the outcome of the Whois Proceeding, although throughout the entire procedure (including later steps) confidentiality should only be granted in those circumstances where it is necessary, keeping in mind the It is recommended that ICANN respond favorably to such requests to the extent that they can be accommodated with other legal responsibilities and basic principles of transparency applicable to ICANN operations. "

Vote to accept the revision:

6 votes - CBUC (Marilyn Cade and proxy for David Fares, Sarah Deutsch), ISP (Tony Harris), IPC (Steve Metalitz, Niklas Lagergren).

Votes to reject the revision:

6 votes - Registry C. (Tuli Day, David Maher, Ken Stubbs), NCUC (Milton Mueller), Registrars C (Tim Ruiz) (Ross Rader was against on the list).

Revision 3 rejected by the task force

 

Proposed revision 4

The proposal is to add a paragraph to Step Two of the guidance on the procedure. The new paragraph would be inserted between the current first and second paragraphs:


"The Registrar should attempt to identify a solution that allows the registrar to meet the requirements of both the local law and ICANN obligations. The General Counsel can assist in advising the registrar on whether the proposed solution meets the ICANN obligations."
Revision 4 accepted by the task force

Proposed revision 5

The proposal is to add text to the end of the first sentence of Step Four.  The new sentence would read:

"Keeping in the mind the anticipated impact on the operational stability, reliability, security, or global interoperability of the Internet's unique identifier systems, and the value of uniform Whois requirements applying to all Registrars/Registries to the extent possible, the Board should consider and take appropriate action on the recommendations contained in the General Counsel’s report as soon as practicable.

Vote to accept the revision:

5 votes - CBUC (Marilyn Cade, Sarah Deutsch), ISP (Tony Harris), IPC (Steve Metalitz, Niklas Lagergren)

Votes to reject the revision:

5 votes - Registry C. (Tuli Day, David Maher, Ken Stubbs), Registrars C. (Tim Ruiz), NCUC (Milton Mueller)

Revision 5 rejected by the task force

 

Proposed revision 6

This change would add text to the last sentence of Step Five.  The new sentence would read:

"ICANN should issue an appropriate notice to the public of the resolution and of the reasons for ICANN’s forbearance from enforcement of full compliance with the contractual provision in question, including relevant contact information for how such data might be accessed in appropriate circumstances."

Vote to accept the revision:

5 votes - CBUC (Marilyn Cade, (proxy David Fares, Sarah Deutsch), ISP (Tony Harris, (proxy Maggie Mansourkia), IPC (Steve Metalitz, Niklas Lagergren)

Votes to reject the revision:

5 votes - Registry C. (Tuli Day, David Maher, Ken Stubbs), NCUC (Milton Mueller), Registrars C. (Tim Ruiz)

Revision 6 rejected by the task force

Proposed revision 7

This change would add a new Step Six to the guidance on the procedure. The new section would read as follows:

 
With substantial input from the relevant registries or registrars, together with all constituencies, there should be a review of the pros and cons of how the process worked, and the development of revisions designed to make the process better and more efficient, should the need arise again at some point in the future."

Vote to accept the revision:

8 votes - Registry C. (Tuli Day, David Maher, Ken Stubbs), CBUC (Marilyn Cade, Sarah Deutsch), ISP (Tony Harris), IPC (Steve Metalitz, Niklas Lagergren)

Votes to reject the revision:

2 votes - NCUC (Milton Mueller), Registrars C. (Tim Ruiz)

Revision 7 accepted by the task force

 

 

�2005  The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. All rights reserved.