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  • To: whois-tf3-report-comments@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: comments
  • From: Jisuk Woo <jisuk@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 6 Jul 2004 02:01:16 +0900 (KST)
  • Reply-to: jisuk@xxxxxxxxx

I am quite concerned about the basic premise of this task force. I do not find the accuracy of personal data in whois database necessary, nor always desirable. Since most of the report is based on the assumption that the accuracy of whois data is necessary or desirable, it is difficult to comment on the contents of the report, and if we still have to proceed on this issue, I prefer working on the Registrars Constituency Minority Report. I also think that putting together best practices is very premature at this time.


The reasons why the accuracy of whois data is not always desirable are manifolds. One relates to the nature of digital technology, and power imbalance that plays a critical role in this situation. In the interactive Internet environment, once information is made available, it is very difficult to know who will use the information for what purpose and when this will happen. There are thousands of big brothers and neighbours and other people who could have access to your information, and you would not even know it. Individuals, governments, data-using industries, and all other potential users of information are uncertain about whether and how personal information will be used in the future. Then having some anonymity may be the only way for ordinary individuals to protect themselves from potential abuse of their personal information. In that sense, sometimes providing false information would be the only practically effective and logically rational way to protect oneself.


If we force domain name registrants to provide accurate information as recommended in the report, they do not have a practical option not to provide information in a practical sense in this take-it-or-leave-it condition. Furthermore, even if they do make a voluntary decision to provide their information, this decision is often based on incomplete and uncertain information regarding the possible use of their information in the future. The so-called “informed consent” is very difficult to be achieved in this situation.


But the sentiment that “concealing data is a bad thing” and “more than less information is better” seems to be a deeply held social value. So privacy as a tool to give a right to prevent sharing of personal information may have a natural and inherent disadvantage. But if we look closely at society’s customs and practices, we should admit that secrets and lies are an essential element of society’s function. Every society tolerates and even respects some forms of untruth, and people tell lies about themselves and their motives. We all know that reality is far from just plain truth, and the movie “Liar, Liar” illuminates that too much honesty can be both dangerous and ridiculous. This reality is reflected in many cases of secrecy exercised in government and news media. There are many circumstances in which attaining knowledge is considered undesirable, and these circumstances are supported by various justifications such as national interest and protection from foreign entities. Therefore, there can be good deception and bad deception, as much as we distinguish between white lies and black lies, between small lies and big lies. Then what is the basis for this distinction? In the case of government secrets and undercover operations, when benefits outweigh potential harm and risk, secrecy and deception seems to be justified. Also, good purpose and good intention seem to be other justifications.


Thus, I argue that concealing and deceiving one’s identity to gain anonymity on the current network environment is a tool to protect oneself from unknown harm or invasion and to maintain individual control over one’s private space. This kind of “defensive” lying has clear benefits and a positive purpose, and is often permitted in society. In the same token, I think that the protection of registrants’ privacy is worth securing by not forcing to provide absolutely accurate information and imposing disadvantages if they do not comply. Before we have a discussion on this more fundamental issue, having a discussion and making a conclusion regarding how to create accurate database seems to be far-fetched.


Jisuk Woo

Professor at Seoul National University

Jinbonet Korea

서울대학교 행정대학원
Assistant Professor
Graduate School of Public Administration
Seoul National University
tel: 02-880-5633
fax: 02-6248-0951
email: jisuk@xxxxxxxxx

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