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Public Comment On Domain Name Whois Overhaul Invited

January 31, 2012

The days of registering a generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) under the nom de plume of Darth Vader and using other false details may soon be over.

While Australian domain registration processes usually help ensure the person registering the name is indeed who they say they are; it hasn't been the same case with registering generic domains such as .com, .net and .org. Whois (a feature that allows you to look up the name and contact information of the party that operates a website domain) privacy features have also become popular.

These issues have become a thorn in the side of anyone wishing to contact a registrant - particularly law enforcement agencies.

As part of the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers' (ICANN's) commitments and responsibilities, Whois policy was recently reviewed by an independent team.

The review found Whois policy has "not kept pace with the real world" and that ICANN has failed to respond to the needs of law enforcement communities in terms of ensuring the accuracy of Whois data and time for access and action.

One of the recommendations of the review is that domain registrars be forced to carry out identification verification. This could be a costly and time consuming process, one that could add to the cost of generic domain registration.

The goal of the recommendations, should they be implemented, is to slash "unreachable" Whois registrations by 50% in a year.

The issue of Whois policy is a very sensitive topic. "A gross understatement is that tensions exist between the various ICANN constituencies regarding WHOIS. Issues abound including right to privacy, anonymity, intellectual property protection, security and abuse, among others. Each is important. None more so than the other," acknowledges the report.

ICANN states while the review and recommendations are open for comment until March, the review team is looking for "substantive comments" from the public now. 

The draft of the Final Report (PDF) for comment can be downloaded here. Public comments can be submitted here.

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