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These 33 people will decide the future of Whois

Kevin Murphy, July 31, 2018, 10:34:28 (UTC), Domain Policy

The names of the people who will decide the future of global gTLD Whois policy have been revealed.
Twenty-nine of 33 open seats of the GNSO’s Expedited Policy Development Process on the Temporary Specification for gTLD Registration Data are now filled and their occupants known.
The EPDP group is tasked with, in just a few short months, coming up with a permanent replacement for ICANN’s Temporary Specification for Whois in a post-GDPR world.
While 33 might seem like a lot of people, it’s a far cry from the over 100 involved in previous Whois working groups, kept deliberately small in order to meet the EPDP’s aggressive deadlines.
As you might expect, there are some members that we can safely rely on to fight for an interpretation of GDPR weighted heavily towards privacy rights, balanced against many others who will certainly fight for “legitimate purposes” data access rights for law enforcement, security and intellectual property interests.
The makeup of the group is heavily North American, with hardly any representation from Asia or Latin America.
By my count, there are 17 members from North America, seven people based in Europe (one of whom represents the Iranian government), two Africans, and one body each from Australia, Japan, and Argentina.
Contrary to the EPDP charter, and DI’s previous coverage, there are no members of the ccNSO on the group. It also appears as if the two seats reserved for root server operators will go unfilled.
As previously reported, the group is being chaired by Kurt Pritz, who works for the .art registry operator but is best known as a former ICANN senior VP.
These are the other members, grouped by their respective factions.
Registries Stakeholder Group
Alan Woods. He’s Donuts’ senior policy and compliance manager and has been since 2014. Donuts is of course the registry with the largest portfolio of commercial, open gTLDs, running about 300 of them.
Marc Anderson. Verisign’s product manager in charge of systems including SRS and Whois. Whatever policy is ultimately handed down, he’ll be in charge of implementing it at .com and .net, among other TLDs. As the only major example of a “thin” gTLD registry operator, Verisign handles a lot less personal data than any other gTLD registry.
Kristina Rosette. She’s a lawyer with a background in IP, working for Amazon, which holds a portfolio of gTLDs most of which remain unlaunched. An example of the GNSO’s ongoing game of musical chairs, she used to be a leading voice in the Intellectual Property Constituency.
Registrars Stakeholder Group
James Bladel. Vice president of global policy at GoDaddy, which in its implementation of GDPR has erred towards publishing more data, not less. As the largest registrar, GoDaddy is a rare example of a registrar with the resources to make its implementation more granular, allowing it to differentiate between EU and non-EU customers and continue to have a value proposition for its paid-for privacy services.
Matt Serlin. Formerly with brand protection registrar MarkMonitor, he’s the founder of startup rival BrandSight. It probably goes without saying that the brand protection side of the RrSG does not necessarily have the same interests as retail registrars. GDPR does not affect big trademark-holding corporations in terms of their own Whois records (GDPR only applies to “natural persons”), but it does affect their ability to go after cybersquatters.
Emily Taylor. As well as a policy consultant and a former Nominet bigwig, she’s a director of the small UK registrar Netistrar but says “my business interests also cover intellectual property / brand protection, and non-commercial interests such as freedom of expression, privacy and human rights”. She chaired an earlier Whois Review Team, which published a report in 2012 that was ultimately basically ignored by ICANN
Intellectual Property Constituency
Alex Deacon. While recently independent, he still represents the Motion Picture Association of America, one of the biggest copyright interests out there and until April his direct employer.
Diane Plaut. Seemingly a relative newcomer to ICANN, she’s “Global General Counsel and Data Protection and Privacy Officer” for a company called Corsearch, which provides database services for trademark owners. In an April blog post, she wrote that it is “essential” that trademark owners should continue to have access to private Whois data.
Business Constituency
Margie Milam. Head of domain strategy at Facebook, which is currently lobbying ICANN to start forcing registrars to reveal private data to trademark interests, as we reported last week.
Mark Svancarek. Newly installed as “Principal Program Manager – Tech Policy / Internet Governance” at Microsoft, which has said that it thinks privacy is a “fundamental human right”. Make no mistake, however, Microsoft reckons Whois data should carry on being made available to those investigating cybercrime or intellectual property infringement, as it outlined in a recent letter to ICANN (pdf).
Internet Service and Connection Providers Constituency
Esteban Lescano. Partner at the Argentinian law firm Lescano & Etcheverry, which counts online trademark protection as one of many areas of specialization, he’s also director of the policy and legal affairs committee at trade group CABASE, the Argentine Internet Association.
Thomas Rickert. Lawyer Rickert is head of domains at German trade group eco, but perhaps more significantly his law firm is representing Tucows subsidiary EPAG in its lawsuit with ICANN, in which ICANN accuses EPAG of breaching its contract by threatening to stop collecting certain Whois data elements. He’s very much on the pro-privacy side of the debate.
Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group
Stephanie Perrin. President of her own company, Digital Discretion, she consults on privacy issues. Unambiguously on the pro-privacy side of the house.
Ayden Ferdeline. A Germany-based independent consultant, Ferdeline is, like Perrin, firmly pro-privacy.
Milton Mueller. An ICANN veteran, Mueller is a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and founder of the Internet Governance Project. About as pro-privacy as it gets.
Johan “Julf” Helsingius. Chairman of BaseN, an “internet of things” services provider, Helsingus has form when it comes to privacy protection. His Wikipedia entry is dominated by his pro-privacy activities, including a 1996 fight against the Church of Scientology, which wanted him to reveal the identities of his customers.
Amr Elsadr. Egyptian consultant Elsadr also has a track record of talking up privacy rights at ICANN.
Farzaneh Badiei. Executive director at the Internet Governance Project and researcher at Georgia Tech, Badiei, alongside colleagues Mueller and Ferdeline, has been regularly vocal about the need for privacy in Whois.
Governmental Advisory Committee
Georgios Tselentis. As the representative of the European Commission, one might reasonably expect Tselentis to be rather pro-GDPR.
Ashley Heineman. She represents the US on the GAC. The US is very strongly of the belief that Whois access should be reinstated for intellectual property and security interests.
Kavouss Arasteh. Iran’s GAC rep, we could be looking at the WG’s deadline wild card here. I’ve no idea what Iran’s position is on GDPR, but there are few topics at ICANN upon which Arasteh has not spoken strongly, and at length.
At-Large Advisory Committee
Alan Greenberg. He chairs the ALAC, which is in favor of a well-regulated accreditation program that allows law enforcement and IP interests to access Whois.
Hadia Elminiawi. Elminiawi works at the National Telecom Regulatory Authority of Egypt. She did not vote on the ALAC position paper on Whois/GDPR.
Security and Stability Advisory Committee
Benedict Addis. Formerly in UK law enforcement, Addis chairs the Registrar of Last Resort, a non-profit registrar that quarantines abusive domain names.
Ben Butler. Director of global policy at GoDaddy, focused on abuse, I wouldn’t expect his position to differ wildly from that of colleague Bladel.
Root Server System Advisory Committee
While two seats have been reserved for the RSSAC, the committee has not yet put any bodies forward to occupy them, presumably because the root server operators don’t collect personal data from registrants and don’t really have a horse in this race.
The ICANN board of directors has two liaisons on the WG — Chris Disspain and Leon Felipe Sanchez. The GNSO Council liaison is Rafik Dammak. There are expected to be two ICANN staff liaisons, but they have not yet been named.
The EPDP mailing list opened up yesterday and will hold its first teleconference tomorrow.

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Comments (12)

  1. Marc says:

    These 33 people have no chance of agreeing on the future of the WHOIS. I predict they agree to build a wall in between themselves before the agree on an approach.
    Great write up Kevin, i think this working group needs a documentary crew, will be interesting watching!

  2. gpmgroup says:

    The contract is between the registrant and the registrar. At the moment the registrar’s have no risk and no liability. That needs to change…
    Let the registrars persuade the registrants to put in open pubic WHOIS details, where their registrant does not wish to be persuaded, put in the registrars details and make the registrar responsible for any abuses that are undertaken using the domain name while their name is in the WHOIS.

    • Volker Greimann says:

      Nonsense. The registrar currently faces great liability and fines for illegal data processing.
      And why should a registrar take responsibility for third parties? If a domain name is abused, that is on the registrant; regardless of whether his information is published in whois or not. It is the registrant who controls whether his information gets published after all, not the registrar.

      • gpmgroup says:

        It’s not quite so black and white is it? Registrars already have a responsibility under the RAA 3.18 don’t they?
        WHOIS information is very valuable for combating infringement and misuse of intellectual property, and for well informed internet users looking to ensure that the website they’re visiting is legitimate.
        Registrars need to more constructively engage.
        It really is very easy, where the EU has jurisdiction (<7% of the world’s population) get consent, GDPR consent is granular companies have to do it anyway. Where that consent is not forthcoming registrars need to accept some of the risk. The overwhelming majority of people do not want to use their name for nefarious purposes so it really shouldn’t be a very big issue.

        • Volker Greimann says:

          We are already engaging constructively. All we are asking for is replacement of old, illegal requirements with new, legal ones that we can follow without fear of being sued.
          Sure, as it is our legal risk, we reserve the right to err on the side of caution.
          But when all is said and done, we would prefer a common system with a common implementation too.
          But we need to get rid of the notion that anyone who used to have free, unlimited access to this data in the past will continue to enjoy similar access in the future. Access will have to be regulated and requests be reviewed on a case by case basis.

          • gpmgroup says:

            What you need to understand is the principle of security of tenure.
            Free unhindered open pubic access to WHOIS underpins security of tenure (together with fair and transparent dispute mechanisms and a competitive registrar market etc.).
            Without security of tenure almost everybody loses, registrars included, because people lose confidence. The only exception in the short term (ultimately they lose too) are edge play parties involved in nefarious purposes and all the associated who derive their fees from the resultant whack-a-mole industry.
            Respecting people’s privacy is a good thing to do if your client wants part of, or all of, his contact details private provide that service, but put your own contact details in and accept responsibility for your client’s actions.
            In many jurisdictions there is a requirement to know your customer.

  3. MoGreen says:

    It is nice to see that IP interests were able to get a representative into every single committee and have their own committee on top of that .
    They usually never have a voice at ICANN , so good to see change happening 🙂

  4. Kristina Rosette says:

    I’ve never been an IP lawyer at Amazon. I’m a registry attorney, who happens to have an IP background.

  5. eric brunner-williams says:

    reading the check-in bio mail is slightly amusing.

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