[ALAC] Board WHOIS resolution and Board Briefing Document

Alan Greenberg alan.greenberg at mcgill.ca
Tue Nov 20 02:16:09 UTC 2012

(Thanks to Bruce Tonkin)

WHOIS Policy Review Team Report

Whereas, the WHOIS Policy Review Team Report was submitted to the 
Board on 11 May 2012 and was the subject of extensive public comment 
and community discussion;

Whereas, the Review Team's work has encouraged the Board and 
community to re-examine the fundamental purpose and objectives of 
collecting, maintaining and providing access to gTLD registration 
data, has inspired renewed and new efforts to enforce current WHOIS 
policy and contractual conditions, and has served as a catalyst for 
launching a new approach to long-standing directory services challenges;

Resolved (2012.11.08.01), the Board directs the CEO to launch a new 
effort to redefine the purpose of collecting, maintaining and 
providing access to gTLD registration data, and consider safeguards 
for protecting data, as a foundation for new gTLD policy and 
contractual negotiations, as appropriate (as detailed in the 1 
November 2012 Board paper entitled, "Action Plan to Address WHOIS 
Policy Review Team Report Recommendations"-ICANN Board Submission 
Number 2012-11-08-01 [PDF, 266 KB]), and hereby directs preparation 
of an Issue Report on the purpose of collecting and maintaining gTLD 
registration data, and on solutions to improve accuracy and access to 
gTLD registration data, as part of a Board-initiated GNSO policy 
development process;

Resolved (2012.11.08.02), the Board directs the CEO to continue to 
fully enforce existing consensus policy and contractual conditions 
relating to the collection, access and accuracy of gTLD registration 
data (referred to as gTLD WHOIS data), and increase efforts to 
communicate, conduct outreach on, and ensure compliance with existing 
policy and conditions relating to WHOIS (as detailed in the 1 
November 2012 Summary of the Board Action entitled, "WHOIS Policy 
Review Team Report Recommendations").

Resolved (2012.11.08.03), pursuant to Article III, Section 5.4 of the 
Bylaws, the Board directs that the contents of this resolution and 
rationale shall not be made publicly available until 19 November 2012.

Rationale for Resolutions 2012.11.08.01 - 2012.11.08.02

The Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) between ICANN and the U.S. 
Department of Commerce commits ICANN to enforcing its existing policy 
relating to WHOIS (subject to applicable laws), which "requires that 
ICANN implement measures to maintain timely, unrestricted and public 
access to accurate and complete WHOIS information, including 
registrant, technical, billing, and administrative contact 
information." The AoC obligates ICANN to organize no less frequently 
than every three years a community review of WHOIS policy and its 
implementation to assess the extent to which WHOIS policy is 
effective and its implementation meets the legitimate needs of law 
enforcement and promotes consumer trust. The AoC further commits 
ICANN's Board to publish for public comment the report submitted by 
the Review Team, and to take action on the report within six months 
of its submission.

The Team's volunteer members were appointed by ICANN's CEO and the 
GAC Chair, per the AoC requirements, and reflected the broad Internet 
community's interests in WHOIS policy. For 18 months, the Team 
conducted fact-finding, including meetings with ICANN's relevant 
Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees, members of the 
broader Internet community, and other interested parties, and issued 
a draft report for public comment before submitting its Final Report 
to the Board on 11 May 2012. The Report was posted for two months of 
public comment and the Board requested input from ICANN's Supporting 
Organizations and Advisory Committees. Community discussion and input 
on the Report continued through the ICANN Toronto meeting in October 2012.

The GAC and ALAC endorsed the WHOIS review report, SSAC provided a 
response in SAC055 
(http://www.icann.org/en/groups/ssac/documents/sac-055-en.pdf), and 
the GNSO provided a response by constituency 
[PDF, 377 KB]).

There is general agreement on the objective of strengthening the 
enforcement of existing consensus policies and contracts and the 
WHOIS Review Team Report provides many relevant recommendations to that effect.

However, both the WHOIS Review Team Report and the SSAC comments 
highlighted the limits of the current framework for gTLD directory 
services and the need to move beyond the present contractual 
provisions. The WHOIS Review Team for instance clearly stated that 
"the current system is broken and needs to be repaired." Likewise, 
the SSAC report stated that "the foundational problem facing all 
'WHOIS' discussions is understanding the purpose of domain name 
registration data", that "there is a critical need for a policy 
defining the purpose of collecting and maintaining registration data" 
and suggested that "the formation of a properly authorized committee 
to drive solutions to these questions first, and to then derive a 
universal policy from the answers, is the appropriate sequence of 
steps to address the WHOIS Review Team's report ."

Indeed, the WHOIS protocol is over 25 years old (the current version 
is documented in RFC3912 dated September 2004, and the original 
version is documented in RFC812 dated March 1982). Furthermore, 
ICANN's requirements for domain name registration data collection, 
access and accuracy for gTLD registries and registrars are largely 
unchanged after more than 12 years of GNSO task forces, working 
groups, workshops, surveys and studies. Concerns of access, accuracy, 
privacy, obsolescence of protocols in an evolving name space, and 
costs to change remain unresolved.

In this context, taking into account these inputs and community 
concerns, the Board has determined that a broad and responsive action 
is required and has decided to implement a two-pronged approach. 
Accordingly, the Board is simultaneously:

1.Directing the President and CEO to continue to fully enforce 
existing consensus policy and contractual conditions as well as to 
increase efforts to communicate, conduct outreach on, and ensure 
compliance with such existing policy and conditions.

2.Directing the President and CEO to launch a new effort focused on 
the purpose and provision of gTLD directory services, to serve as the 
foundation of an upcoming Board-initiated gNSO PDP. The outcomes of 
this work should act as guidance to the Issue Report that will be 
presented as part of the GNSO's policy development work; as a result, 
the Issues Report is not expected to be produced until such time as 
the President and CEO determines that his work has progressed to a 
point that it can serve as a basis of work within the PDP.

On both aspects, additional information is contained in the document, 
"Action Plan to Address WHOIS Policy Review Team Report 
Recommendations"-ICANN Board Submission Number 2012-11-08-01" 
[PDF, 266 KB]).

As part of the work of the President and CEO to ensure continued 
compliance with existing policy and conditions, the President and CEO 
has moved the Compliance Department to report directly to the 
President and CEO 
and the Board granted financial authorization to establish a 
Contractual Compliance Audit Program through an independent Service 

Furthermore, appropriate liaison will be established with the ongoing 
work undertaken in the IETF WG on the Web Extensible Internet 
Registration Data Service (WEIRDS) Protocol to ensure coherence.

The Board strongly feels that taking this two-pronged approach is 
essential to fulfill ICANN's responsibility to act in the global 
public interest.

The initiation of a focused work on Whois is expected to have an 
impact on financial resources as the research and work progresses. If 
the resource needs are greater than the amounts currently budgeted to 
perform work on Whois-related issues, the President and CEO will 
bring any additional resource needs to the Board Finance Committee 
for consideration, in line with existing contingency fund request practices.

This action is not expected to have an immediate impact on the 
security, stability or resiliency of the DNS, though the outcomes of 
this work may result in positive impacts.

This is an Organizational Administrative Function of the Board for 
which the Board received public comment, at 

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