Data Protection/Privacy Issues Update: An ICANN Update & Most Frequently Asked Questions

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Since my last blog, we’ve heard from many, both inside and outside our community, about the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its impact on WHOIS. I have received questions from many of you and I think these topics may be interesting for a wider audience. As I write this, I’m eagerly awaiting information from the Article 29 Working Party.

The GDPR’s impact on the domain name space remains a hot topic and here [PDF, 22 KB] are answers to some of the more frequently asked questions. It is also important to remember that the changes ICANN has proposed to WHOIS are meant to make ICANN and our contracted parties compliant with the new laws on a temporary basis. Ultimately, it will be the ICANN community policy development processes that recommend the necessary changes to policies guiding registration directory services.

Some recent news reports indicate that ICANN is taking arbitrary or unilateral action to change WHOIS. Far from it. We’ve been working with the community for nine months to discuss how we may change the existing WHOIS system and ICANN’s practices to ensure compliance with the law while preserving the current information contained in WHOIS to the greatest extent possible. To do this, we have requested feedback from the European Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) on whether our Proposed Interim Model [PDF, 922 KB] is compliant with the GDPR. We’ve heard from many of you who wonder what happens if that feedback is not received soon, or at all. At a high level, this could, at least temporarily, jeopardize a common, implementable solution with access to registration data for legitimate purposes. Furthermore WHOIS, as it exists today, could become fragmented if sufficient advice is not received and an action plan is not adopted. Contracted parties might employ their own methods and processes for displaying, partially displaying or not displaying registration data, which may not match ICANN’s model, possibly putting them out of compliance with ICANN contracts.

We continue to reach out and work in consultation with the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), DPAs and contracted parties to make the appropriate adjustments to our model. In parallel, we have offered [PDF, 464 KB] secretariat support to a community initiative drafting recommendations for the accreditation process to provide access to non-public WHOIS data to users with a legitimate basis for access.

Let me reiterate here that ICANN remains fully committed to complying with the GDPR and following the law and maintaining the existing WHOIS to the greatest extent possible.

We have confirmed that ICANN is on the upcoming Article 29 Working Party plenary’s agenda for 11 April 2018. We hope to receive the necessary guidance from the DPAs subsequent to that meeting so that we may move forward. We also remain hopeful of the possibility for a moratorium on enforcement that would allow sufficient time to implement the model and build the appropriate accreditation system together with the community.

As always, you can follow the latest updates on our Data Protection/Privacy Issues page including the recently posted FAQ. We invite you to email your thoughts to [email protected].