ICANN WHOIS and George Orwell

Cartoon: the review team present a floating orb to a Dalek overlord.
The WHOIS Review Team present their labour of love to the ICANN board

ICANN’s agreement with the United States Government requires it to have regular, independent reviews on  key issues.  One of these is WHOIS, an inoffensive-seeming directory of contact details for the registered holder of each domain name.

WHOIS: the poisoned chalice

To those outside ICANN’s charmed circle, it may come as a surprise to find that WHOIS is viewed as an intractable issue, one that has divided the “community” for more than a decade.
Despite being handed the poisoned chalice, the independent review which I chaired came up with consensus recommendations on WHOIS for the first time in ICANN’s history.  The Review was presented to ICANN’s board and the article [ed:2014 SAVED BY WAYBACK MACHINE - Bye, bye fantastic .Nxt] traces what happened next…

A casual reader could not fail to conclude that the Board does not intend to implement the Whois Review Team’s recommendations.

So, how did the Board react?

‘A casual reader could not fail to conclude that the Board does not intend to implement the Whois Review Team’s recommendations. One commentator called the Board’s approach “a model of non-communication…replete with Orwellian gaps in the texts”, and said its decision to form an expert group as “suspiciously like a pretext for further unwarranted, inordinate delay”.

Cartoon by Patrick Taylor. Daleks blow up Whois report
ICANN board blow-up Whois report

‘Other commentators have reached the same conclusion. Steve Metalitz of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP (and ICANN’s intellectual property constitutency) described [pdf] (to Bloomberg’s Electronic Commerce & Law Report ) the Board’s response as wanting to “tear up, start over”.

‘Most poignant was this from long-time ICANN participant, Public Interest Registry’s David Maher:

‘Déjà vu – Whois privacy and rights protection mechanisms – has there been progress since 1996? Sometimes, it doesn’t seem that way.’

Cartoon by Patrick Taylor 2013. Dr Whois to the rescue.
Dr. Who-is to the rescue. Cartoon by Patrick Taylor 2013.

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