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Karklins beats LaHatte to chair ICANN’s Whois privacy team

Kevin Murphy, April 25, 2019, 13:11:58 (UTC), Domain Policy

Latvian diplomat and former senior WIPO member Janis Karklins has been appointed chair of the ICANN working group that will decide whether to start making private Whois records available to trademark owners.

Karklins’ appointment was approved by the GNSO Council last week. He beat a single rival applicant, New Zealand’s Chris LaHatte, the former ICANN Ombudsman.

He replaces Kurt Pritz, the former ICANN Org number two, who quit the chair after it finished its “phase one” work earlier this year.

Karklins has a varied resume, including a four-year stint as chair of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.

He’s currently Latvia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, as well as president of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Apparently fighting for Latvia’s interests at the UN and overseeing the international conventional weapons trade still gives him enough free time to now also chair the notoriously intense and tiring Expedited Policy Development Process on Whois, which has suffered significant burnout-related volunteer churn.

But it was Karklins’ one-year term as chair of the general assembly of WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, that gave some GNSO Council members pause.

The EPDP is basically a big bloodless ruck between intellectual property lawyers and privacy advocates, so having a former WIPO bigwig in the neutral hot seat could be seen as a conflict.

This issue was raised by the pro-privacy Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group during GNSO Council discussions last week, who asked whether LaHatte could not also be brought on as a co-chair.

But it was pointed out that it would be difficult to find a qualified chair without some connection to some interested party, and that Karklins is replacing Pritz, who at the time worked for a new gTLD registry and could have had similar perception-of-conflict issues.

In the end, the vote to confirm Karklins was unanimous, NCSG and all.

The EPDP, having decided how to bring ICANN’s Whois policy into compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation, is now turning its attention to the far trickier issue of a “unified access model” for private Whois data.

It will basically decide who should be able to request access to this data and how such a system should be administered.

It will not be smooth sailing. If Karklins thinks international arms dealers are tricky customers, he ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Comments (4)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Arms dealers are whining babies compared to ICANN community groups.

    • James Bladel says:

      One morning over coffee, our mediators/facilitators hired by ICANN causally mentioned that they recently help broker a cease fire between an African government and some local factions. One of them said that was much simpler than the ePDP.

      • Rubens Kuhl says:

        Perhaps we need real guns and real bullets in WGs. Words don’t hurt enough for people to care to compromise… it’s like the Star Trek episode “A Taste of Armageddon”, where two planets prefer peace to actual bloody battles.

  2. The Internet has been weaponized so this decision makes sense. The direction remains predictable to the point of being blatant. That being said, I am not sure it bodes well for civil liberties or digital sovereignty.

Leave a Reply to James Bladel