It’s time to go beyond a few minor fixes and instead implement a “paradigm shift!”

01/07/2014

By Carlton Samuels, Member of the ICANN  Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services (EWG).

That’s the way the Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services (EWG) characterizes its recommendations in its final report, which proposes a next generation Registration Directory Service (RDS).

The EWG, in its 166-page final report, recommends replacing today’s problematic WHOIS model, which gives anonymous users universal access to generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) registration data that is too often inaccurate.

Instead, after 15-months of study, the EWG report recommends a new system that would continue to make basic data publicly available while making the rest accessible only to accredited requestors who identify themselves, state their purpose and agree to be held accountable for appropriate use of the data.

For more than a decade, the WHOIS system has generated a deadlocked controversy within the ICANN community.  While everyone agreed that the system needed dramatic improvement, there was little agreement on how a fix might best be achieved.

The Expert Working Group was formed by CEO Fadi Chehadé at the request of ICANN’s Board to find a replacement for the current system.

The EWG started from the ground up by questioning fundamental assumptions about the purposes, uses, collection, maintenance and provision of registration data. The group considered each stakeholder, their needs for data accuracy, access, privacy and possible approaches to effectively meet those needs.

The new system is designed to tackle difficult data privacy issues and degraded data quality, while striking a difficult balance between access and accountability.

In doing its review, the EWG analyzed 2600 pages of public comments, research surveys, and feasibility studies, many of which identified the deficiencies in WHOIS.

In its final report the EWG abandons, “today’s one-size-fits-all WHOIS in favor of purpose-driven access to validated data in hopes of improving privacy, accuracy and accountability data.”

The system proposed by the group is aimed at:

  • Providing appropriate access to accurate, reliable, and uniform registration data.
  • Protecting the privacy of personal information.
  • Enabling a reliable mechanism for identifying, establishing and maintaining the ability to contact Registrants.
  • Supporting a framework to address issues involving Registrants, including but not limited to: consumer protection, investigation of cybercrime and intellectual property protection.
  • Providing an infrastructure to address appropriate law enforcement needs.

The EWG says its final report will “provide a solid foundation to help the ICANN community (through the Generic Names Supporting Organization, GNSO) create a new global policy for gTLD directory services.”

The final report of the Expert Working Group has been delivered to the ICANN CEO and Board and will now be considered by the community.  The EWG will answer questions and entertain comments about its report during several sessions at the ICANN50 meeting in London, 22-16 June.

The Final Report from the Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services (EWG) can be accessed here: https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/final-report-06jun14-en.pdf.

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About the author:

Carlton Samuels is an independent international ICT4D consultant and an adjunct lecturer at the University of the West Indies. He is a Jamaican and US national. Previously, he worked as CIO & University Director of IT. His volunteer positions include being a foundation member of, and the former secretariat for, the Latin America and Caribbean Regional At-Large Advisory Organization (LACRALO). He is a Vice Chair of the ALAC and the leader of the ALAC WHOIS WG. He is based in the West Indies.

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