The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
will conduct a review of the Whois database for domain name
registrants, and assess the feasibility of allowing individuals and
companies to register domain names anonymously in the future.
An online survey invites people to comment on the existing practice
of publishing the personal details of registrants to the public, which is
often used for commercial purposes. The comment period is open
until August 14, and will question current rules that prevent people
from signing up for domain names anonymously.
In its preamble to the survey ICANN states, "the questions are
designed to focus on the purpose, use, and accuracy of the Whois
service to establish the appropriate balance between competing
The Whois service currently contains registrants' domain name
registration information, which is gathered from the databases of
either ICANN-accredited registrars or at the registry of the appropriate
country code. The Whois database is a publicly searchable resource
and is used to determine the identity of domain name registrants and
the technical and administrative contacts associated with the domain
name or Internet Protocol (IP) block.
The disclosure of data about individuals' registrations has frequently
raised privacy concerns, as personal information is often sold or
trawled through for commercial purposes. But Nominet, the registry
for .uk domain names, follows a more stringent approach towards the
disclosure of registrants' contact information, and only publishes the
name of domain name owners.
"If making a change to the way that we operate was deemed to be in
the interest of the whole Internet community, we would [change] the
information that we publish," said Eleanor Bradley, customer support
manager for Nominet. "We have a lot more information on our side to
validate who a registrant is, and we retain the right to release the
information to named parties if necessary."
It is estimated that well over 70 percent of domain names are
registered by businesses or organizations. ICANN believes that the
Whois database provides a crucial resource for network
administrators who may need to contact other network system
operators in resolving network problems or to determine the
perpetrators of spam or hacking attempts.
Nominet agrees that it is in the interest of both parties to know with
whom they are entering into a contract, so that any amendment to a
domain name will always affect the right party. The registration of
pseudonyms is also not allowed, but registrants wishing to conceal
their identity can buy a domain name under a third-party name, such
as that of their lawyer.
The ICANN survey will last two weeks, after which time participants
will be emailed with a copy of the responses received. ICANN will
then enter a discussion period to review the findings of the study.