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[alac] ALERT: Whois

  • To: ALAC Wendy Seltzer <wendy@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: [alac] ALERT: Whois
  • From: Annette Muehlberg <annette.muehlberg@xxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2006 22:36:18 +0200

Dear Wendy, all,

Kathryn Kleiman from ICANN’s Noncommercial Users Constituency has asked to forward the following ALERT to colleagues and/or individuals who be interested in mobilizing support.




ALERT: ICANN’s Privacy Progress In The Whois Databases Needs Your Input

To: The Human Rights and Privacy Community
From: Kathryn Kleiman, Esq.
Co-Founder, ICANN’s Noncommercial Users Constituency
& Longtime member, ICANN’s Whois Task Force.

Date: June 20, 2006

Alert: ICANN’s Privacy Progress in the Whois Databases Needs Your Input; Timely Communication to Your Government Advisory Committee Member Will Help Balance and Inform Debate

ICANN needs your help. After years of work on data protection laws, ICANN’s GNSO Council recently took concrete steps to protect privacy in the Whois databases. On April 12, 2006, the GNSO Council adopted a clearly defined “Purpose” for the Whois Databases – one that is narrow, technical and compatible with the original purpose of this data. At last, we followed important comments, speeches and input!

Opposition began immediately. The US Government is using many forums within ICANN, public and private, to criticize the vote. Following the US lead, the Australian Government quickly wrote to criticize the Whois vote. Australia’s letter called for all personal data in the Whois database to remain fully open and completely accessible. Letter attached below. This week, the International Trademark Association, a group with historic weight in the ICANN process, loudly voiced its concerns and urged ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf to reverse the Whois privacy work and keep all data (personal and otherwise) open and accessible.

The GNSO Council’s vote represented a historical alignment. Registrars, Registries and ICANN’s Noncommercial Users Constituency all voted to respect data protection laws worldwide. Yet the GNSO Council is only an interim step. As one of ICANN’s “Supporting Organizations,” we can only report our policy recommendations to the ICANN Board. The ICANN Board and Officers make the final decisions. We know they listen carefully to loud voices – and rely increasingly on ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee (“the GAC”).

Unfortunately, the GAC has only heard half of the story. It has held large and small meetings with law enforcement officials to hear their opposition to introducing some privacy into the Whois database. However, its long-promised meeting with data protection commissioners, scheduled for 11/05 in Vancouver, was canceled at the last minuted. Dr. Alexander Dix, the Berlin Data Protection Commissioner, was to have been the speaker as the representative of the Article 29 Working Party.

The Whois Task Force learned today that at the ICANN meeting in Marrakech, the GAC will sponsor a Joint GAC/GNSO meeting on Whois -- with at least five GAC speakers. We expect each speaker to urge the GNSO to repeal the Purpose of Whois. (Meeting scheduled for Monday, June 26, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM.) Despite so many members from countries with comprehensive data protection laws, GAC’s current message is an anti-privacy message one: the Whois databases must remain completely open and accessible, with no protection for the personal data of tens of millions of domain name registrants.

The GAC’s message seems counter to comprehensive and sectoral data protection laws around the world. It is also contrary to the Whois privacy policies increasingly found in country code top level domain names around in the world. For example, .JP, .UK and .CA presented their Whois policies at the privacy conference “Building Bridges on ICANN’s Whois Questions” run by ICANN’s Noncommercial Users Constituency. (See www.ncdnhc.org under What’s New and Whois-Privacy Conference agenda and slides linked to speaker names.)

Would you be willing to write to your GAC representative to urge them support the GNSO Council work to date? Would you be willing to work with your GAC representative to discuss your country’s data protection laws and the value you place on them, and ask them to share these views with the GAC and ICANN?

Input now would greatly help to balance the debate. Thank you for your assistance!

Kathryn Kleiman
Co-Founder, ICANN’s Noncommercial Users Constituency
Longtime Member, GNSO’s Whois Task Force

Appendix I: Supplemental Materials on Whois Purpose

A. Background/GNSO Council Work on Purpose of Whois

On April 12, 2006, the GNSO Council took a pro-privacy position. They determined that the Whois database serves a narrow, technical purpose (consistent with the original purpose of ICANN and the limited mission of ICANN).

As adopted by the GNSO Council:
“The purpose of the gTLD Whois service is to provide information sufficient to contact a responsible party for a particular gTLD domain name who can resolve, or reliably pass on data to a party who can resolve, issues related to the configuration of the records associated with the domain name within a DNS nameserver.”

This technical language means that the Whois databases will serve the narrow, technical and traditional purposes of the Domain Name System – registration of domain names (setting them up) and configuration of domain names (making sure domain names can be “resolved” or located in the global domain name system via the main “look-up” tables).

The Purpose adopted by Council was originally called “Formulation 1.” In adopting it, the GNSO Council rejected “Formulation 2” – an unbounded and unlimited Purpose for the Whois Databases (based not only on traditional technical purposes, but all uses of domain names, including content of websites). It is a view oriented in digital rights management, and was rejected, largely because it is overbroad, inconsistent with original purpose, and outside the scope and mission of ICANN:

Formulation 2:
“The purpose of the gTLD Whois service is to provide information sufficient to contact a responsible party or parties for a particular gTLD domain name who can resolve, or reliably pass on data to a party who can resolve, technical, legal or other issues related to the registration or use of a domain name.”

Minutes of the GNSO Council’s vote on the Purpose of Whois can be found at http://www.gnso.icann.org/meetings/minutes-gnso-12apr06.shtml.

B. Opposition Heard To Date:

The negative voices are strong within ICANN. Many are quietly lobbying in the background; others are public. Here are some letters of opposition that we know have been widely circulated to the Board, Officers and staff of ICANN:

Opposition by the Australian Government, http://www.gnso.icann.org/mailing-lists/archives/council/msg02407.html (ironic because the Australian ccTLD, .AU, has some of the strongest data protection regulations of any country code, and protects not only personal data but corporate data as well).

International Trademark Association, http://forum.icann.org/lists/gnso-dow123/msg01000.html (for historical reasons, a group with close ties to the ICANN Board and a heavyweight in the ICANN process).

Letters in support of the GNSO Council and the combined efforts of the Registrar, Registry and Noncommercial Constituencies (and Nominating Committee Representatives): None.

C. Timely Support for the GNSO Work

ICANN starts a meeting in Marrakech on June 23rd. The Whois Task Force just learned today that the GAC plans to have at least five speakers giving strong anti-privacy speeches (intended to block the Whois work).

Some opportunities for input include:

1. Contacting your country’s GAC representative. With your encouragement and guidance, perhaps your GAC representatives will take a clearer position at GAC meetings in support of (and explaining) the EU data protection laws.

The GAC list is publicly posted at:
http://gac.icann.org/web/contact/reps/index.shtml. Some representatives may have changed.

2. Sending a Personal Letter to your GAC representative from you and your organization.

3. Encouraging your GAC representative to request a meeting with Kathryn Kleiman and Milton Mueller, Co-Founders of ICANN’s Noncommercial Users Constituency and NCUC’s Representatives to the GNSO Whois Task Force for many years. Kleiman and Mueller have detailed knowledge of the background, history and abuses of the Whois database (including stalking, harassing, spamming and profiling). Kleiman arrives in Marrakech on Thursday, June 22nd.

4. Join ICANN’s Noncommercial Users Constituency. The dues are low; our voice within ICANN is strong, and your membership would make us stronger. Please see “Join Us” at www.ncdnhc.org.

Appendix II:

Letter to ICANN from Australian Government, April 13, 2006, http://www.gnso.icann.org/mailing-lists/archives/council/msg02407.html

[council] Input from the Australian Government on the WHOIS service
* To: <council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
* Subject: [council] Input from the Australian Government on the WHOIS service
* From: "Bruce Tonkin" <Bruce.Tonkin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
* Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2006 21:14:22 +1000
* Cc: <gnso-dow123@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
* Sender: owner-council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
* Thread-index: AcZe62pF2rsC2Ox1RTm5WvMNEaTPRQ==
* Thread-topic: Input from the Australian Government on the WHOIS service

Hello All,

The note below was sent to me four hours ago as chair of the GNSO

Bruce Tonkin


Australia would like to reiterate to the GNSO Council the position it
conveyed during the GNSO Council - Government Advisory Committee (GAC)
Working Group meeting on 26 March 2006.

On the information available to us, Formulation 2, as identified in the
Final Task Force Report on the Purpose of Whois and of the Whois
Contacts, appears to better reflect the public policy interests of a
fully functional Whois regime from an Australian perspective.

At this point, Australia considers that Whois should:

* satisfy the traditional and ongoing goal of ensuring the
security and stability of the Internet;

* provide the ability to identify and respond to those involved in
criminal activity such as child pornography, 'phishing' and identity

* provide an appropriate level of data to any user that seeks it
including, for example, civil and criminal law enforcement officials,
online consumers, network operators, intellectual property rights
holders and registrars and registries;

* support national laws and global agreements associated with
privacy, trade practices, consumer protection, intellectual property
rights and copyright protection; and

* operate in a manner that is technically feasible and cost
effective for registrars and registries, and does not rely solely on the registrant to be implementable.

We appreciate that Whois is a complex issue with a range of interests.
Given this, we consider that it is important that the GAC and GNSO
Council continue to exchange information and views.

Australia will work with other GAC members to ensure that the GAC is
well placed to have effective dialogue with the GNSO community in

GAC Representative -AUSTRALIA
April 2006

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