ICANN has started the ball rolling on its potentially radical rethink of how Whois works with formation of a new “Expert Working Group” tasked with examining the issue.
As ICANN chair Steve Crocker told DI last month, this is the first stage of a root-and-branch reexamination of Whois databases, what they’re for, and how they’re accessed.
According to ICANN, which is referring to Whois as “gTLD registration data” presumably to avoid confusion with the Whois technical standard, the group will:
1) define the purpose of collecting and maintaining gTLD registration data, and consider how to safeguard the data, and
2) provide a proposed model for managing gTLD directory services that addresses related data accuracy and access issues, while taking into account safeguards for protecting data.
Whatever the new Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services comes up with between January and April next year will be punted to the Generic Names Supporting Organization for an ICANN board-mandated Policy Development Process.
The PDP could create policies binding on gTLD registries and registrars.
Jean-Francois Baril has been hand-picked to chair the group. He has no connection to the domain name industry but appears to have worked with ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade on the RosettaNet standards-setting project.
Crocker and fellow ICANN director Chris Disspain will also join the group.
ICANN wants volunteers to fill the other positions and it seems to be eager to find outsiders who do not already represent entrenched ICANN constituency positions, saying:
Volunteer working group members should: have significant operational knowledge and experience with WHOIS, registrant data, or directory services; be open to new ideas and willing to forge consensus; be able to think strategically and navigate conflicting views; have a record of fostering improvements and delivering results; have a desire to create a new model for gTLD directory services; and be able to volunteer approximately 12-20 hours a month during January – April 2013 to the working group.
Individuals who have worked extensively in the areas of registration data collection, access, accuracy, use, privacy, security, law enforcement, and standards and protocols are also encouraged to consider working group membership. As the working group will be a collection of experts, it is not expected to be comprised solely of representatives of current ICANN community interests. Although members may not come directly from ICANN structures, the working group will have a deep understanding of, and concern for, the ICANN communities’ interests.
Obviously law enforcement and intellectual property interests will be keen to make sure they’re amply represented in the group, as will registries/registrars and privacy advocates.