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[council] WHOIS Area 2 terms of reference (data collection and display)

  • To: <council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: [council] WHOIS Area 2 terms of reference (data collection and display)
  • From: "Bruce Tonkin" <Bruce.Tonkin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2003 16:00:48 +1000
  • Sender: owner-council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Thread-index: AcOZKwEgiY2DBmyzTH2psZrxreuBdw==
  • Thread-topic: WHOIS Area 2 terms of reference (data collection and display)

Title: Review of data collected and displayed

- 1 representative from each constituency
- ALAC liaison
- GAC liaison
- ccNSO liaison
- SECSAC liaison
- liaisons from other GNSO WHOIS task forces

Description of Task Force:

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

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

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

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

Although the GNSO has in the past adopted new policies (See
http://www.icann.org/gnso/whois-tf/report-19feb03.htm) regarding the
accuracy of data and bulk access, the prior Task Force chose to defer
considerations of privacy to a future point.

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

The purpose of this task force is to determine:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

This Task Force would begin at the same time as the other one and
execute its duties in the following order:

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

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

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

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

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