CAUCE comments on WHOIS
Please accept these comments on behalf of CAUCE. I anticipate that CAUCE Canada will also write and endorse them.
John Levine, for CAUCE (US)
CAUCE (US) and CAUCE Canada position on WHOIS data
CAUCE, the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail and CAUCE Canada are the leading North American grassroots anti-spam organizations. They are both members of many cross-industry groups including the London Action Plan at www.londonactionplan.org and the Anti-Spyware Coalition at www.antispywarecoalition.org. Both CAUCE and CAUCE Canada are accredited ICANN At Large Structures.
Spam and related misbehavior such as phishing and spyware take a heavy toll on Internet users. Networks large and small devote an ever increasing part of their resources to anti-spam measures merely to keep their e-mail usable. Phishing and other online fraud cause direct damage to the users who are tricked into responding, and cause all Internet users to be less confident in the Internet and less willing to use it.
WHOIS has always been a key tool for both networks and law enforcement to track and shut down spammers and phishers. Both private and government investigators use it every day to track spammers. Even forged data, which is regrettably common in WHOIS, still allows skilled investigators to link domains to habitual spammers by way of patterns found in the data.
The vast majority of Internet users will never register a domain of their own, and are instead consumers of domains. We are primarily concerned with the interests of the non-registrant majority, but we recognize that some registrants do have privacy concerns, and believe that existing registrar anonymizing servers are adequate to protect them and do not put an unreasonable burden on registrants.
A change to WHOIS that allows criminals a further opportunity to obfuscate their activities by cloaking all WHOIS data will lead to increased levels of privacy violations of by way of spam, viruses and spyware. Removing WHOIS data might provide marginally more privacy to the relatively small number of individuals who register domains, at a disproportionate cost to Internet users at large. We oppose such a change.