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Fadi Chehade starts at ICANN today, immediately shakes up senior management

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s new CEO started work today, two weeks ahead of his original schedule, and immediately made several big changes to the senior management team.

In what can only be described as a ballsy move, Fadi Chehadé has already recruited two of his erstwhile rivals for the CEO job into newly created senior positions.

Other senior executives have also been promoted, a move that Chehadé hopes will send a message about his priorities.

He outlined his changes in an interview with DI.

Two big new hires

Seasoned public relations executive Sally Costerton has been hired as chief stakeholder engagement officer, while Egypt’s former minister of communications Tarek Kamel is the new senior adviser for government affairs. Both are new positions.

Both had put themselves forward as candidates to replace departing CEO Rod Beckstrom earlier this year and both were shortlisted by ICANN’s executive search team before they settled on Chehadé.

Costerton, described last year as “arguably the most senior woman in the UK PR consultancy business” is the British former CEO of the EMEA arm of Hill & Knowlton, a major PR agency.

While Kamel’s technical and internet governance credentials are sound, he’s a potentially controversial hire.

An engineer by training, he’s spent most of his career involved in telecommunications and internet regulatory matters.

Along with his government duties, he’s participated in the Internet Society, the Internet Governance Forum, and has been involved with ICANN since the very beginning, speaking at its two Cairo meetings.

But he’s best-known most recently for being Egypt’s minister of IT under Hosni Mubarak’s presidency, up until the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Basically, he was in charge when the internet got turned off.

The move to shut down internet services during the early days of the revolution attracted personal appeals to Kamel from former ICANNer Andrew McLaughlin and vocal community member Khaled Fattal.

While I can see Kamel’s appointment creating headlines in the coming days (think “ICANN hires man who turned off the internet”), Chehadé insists that his actions during the revolution were “near heroism”.

“He did not turn off the internet,” Chehadé told DI. “As I’ve spent quite a bit of time understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding what did take place in Egypt, it turns out that’s a wrong fact.”

“Tarek was put under an enormous amount of personal risk for himself, for his family,” Chehadé said. “Once I understood the facts I’m very confident that Tarek was a very positive force in the events that took place during this tumultuous time in Egypt.”

“I now am very clear on the frankly near-heroism that he has put on the table in order to ensure the people of Egypt got their services back as quickly as possible,” he said.

Promotions for Serad and Pritz

Kurt Pritz, who’s currently senior vice president of stakeholder relations and acting director of the new gTLD program, is getting promoted to a C-level spot, reporting to Chehadé.

Pritz, with his encyclopedic knowledge of the new gTLD program and willingness to get beaten up by the community on a regular basis, is not somebody you want to risk leaving ICANN at this critical juncture.

He’ll be chief of strategy from now on.

Maguy Serad, who was hired as senior director of contractual compliance in March 2011, has been promoted to vice president of contractual compliance, effective today, reporting directly to Chehadé.

Chehadé said that he wants Serad’s promotion to send a message to the community about the importance of the compliance function, something he discussed during his speech in Prague this June.

“I will be frankly bringing a lot more weight and a lot more independent management from my office to the compliance function,” he said. “This is important both in substance and as well as in sending a clear message of the importance of this area to the community.”

“I’m doing it on the first day to send that message clearly.”

Other changes

With Barbara Ann Clay resigning as vice president of communications a couple of weeks ago, her function has been filled on an interim basis by Jim Trengrove, who’s reporting to Costerton.

Elad Levinson, who is no longer vice president of organizational effectiveness, is not being immediately replaced.

Chehadé said that these two departures did not happen on his watch and offered no additional details.

Akram Atallah, who has been keeping the CEO’s chair warm since Beckstrom left in early July, will resume his former role as chief operating officer from today.

His position is being expanded to include the operations side of the new gTLD program, registry and registrar services, and security, Chehadé said.

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Chinese IDN sunrise starts Sunday for ASCII domains

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2012, Domain Registries

CNNIC, the .cn registry, is going to open up its .中國 internationalized domain name to Latin-script strings next month, and sunrise kicks off this weekend.

Registered trademark owners will be able to apply for domains matching their marks from Sunday, according to registrars. The deadline to apply is October 11.

A second week-long sunrise, starting October 16, will enable owners of ASCII .cn or .com.cn domains to apply for the same string under .中國.

The .中國 IDN ccTLD means “.china” in Simplified Chinese. Previously only Chinese-script domain names could be registered.

CNNIC’s announcement is here, and Melbourne IT has more details here.

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Registries propose PKI-based new gTLD sunrises

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2012, Domain Tech

Neustar and ARI Registry Services have come up with an alternative to ICANN’s proposed new gTLDs sunrise period process, based on a secure Public Key Infrastructure.

The concept was outlined in a draft paper published today, following an intensive two-day tête-à-tête between domain companies and Trademark Clearinghouse providers IBM and Deloitte last month.

It’s presented as an alternative to the implementation model proposed by ICANN, which would use unique codes and was criticized for being inflexible to the needs of new gTLD registries.

The PKI-based alternative from Neustar and ARI would remove some of the cost and complexity for registries, but may create additional file-management headaches for trademark owners.

Under the ICANN model, which IBM and Deloitte are already developing, each trademark owner would receive a unique code for each of their registered trademarks and each registry would be given the list of codes.

If a trademark owner wanted a Sunrise registration, it would submit the relevant code to their chosen registrar, which would forward it to the registry for validation against the list.

One of the drawbacks of this method is that registries don’t get to see any of the underlying trademark data, making it difficult to restrict Sunrise registrations to certain geographic regions or certain classes of trademark.

If, for example, .london wanted to restrict Sunrise eligibility to UK-registered trademarks, it would have no easy way of doing so using the proposed ICANN model.

But IP interests participating in the development of the Trademark Clearinghouse have been adamant that they don’t want registries and registrars getting bulk access to their trademark data.

They’re worried about creating new classes of scams and have competitive concerns about revealing their portfolio of trademarks.

Frankly, they don’t trust registries/rars not to misuse the data.

(The irony that some of the fiercest advocates of Whois accuracy are so concerned about corporate privacy has not been lost on many participants in the TMCH implementation process.)

The newly proposed PKI model would also protect trademark owners’ privacy, albeit to a lesser extent, while giving registries visibility into the underlying trademark data.

The PKI system is rather like SSL. It used public/private key pairs to digitally sign and verify trademark data.

Companies would submit trademark data to the Clearinghouse, which would validate it. The TMCH would then sign the data with its private key and send it back to the trademark owner.

If a company wished to participate in a Sunrise, it would have to upload the signed data — most likely, a file — to its registrar. The registrar or registry could then verify the signature using the TMCH’s public key.

Because the data would be signed, but not encrypted, registrars/ries would be able to check that the trademark is valid and also get to see the trademark data itself.

This may not present a privacy concern for trademark owners because their data is only exposed to registries and registrars for the marks they plan to register as domains, rather than in bulk.

Registries would be able to make sure the trademark fits within their Sunrise eligibility policy, and would be able to include some trademark data in the Whois, if that’s part of their model.

It would require more file management work by trademark owners, but it would not require a unique code for each gTLD that they plan to defensively register in.

The Neustar/ARI proposal suggests that brand-protection registrars may be able to streamline this for their clients by enabling the bulk upload of trademark Zip files.

The overall PKI concept strikes me as more elegant than the ICANN model, particularly because it’s real-time rather than using batch downloads, and it does not require the TMCH to have 100% availability.

ICANN is understandably worried that about the potentially disastrous consequences for the new gTLD program if it creates a TMCH that sits in the critical registration path and it goes down.

The PKI proposal for Sunrise avoids this problem, as registries and registrars only need a stored copy of the TMCH’s public key in order to do real-time validation.

Using PKI for the Trademark Claims service — the second obligatory rights protection mechanism for new gTLD launches — is a much trickier problem if ICANN is to stick to its design goals, however.

ARI and Neustar plan to publish their Trademark Claims proposal later this week. For now, you can read the Sunrise proposal in PDF format here.

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Go Daddy customers to get compensation?

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2012, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy plans to offer customers affected by its downtime yesterday a “good faith gesture” in the coming days.

A blog post from interim CEO Scott Wagner tonight closely mirrors the statement the company issued earlier today, but with a few additions:

We have let our customers down and we know it. I cannot express how sorry I am to those of you who were inconvenienced. We will learn from this.

I’d like to express my profound gratitude to all our customers. We are thankful for your straightforward feedback and the confidence you have shown in us.

In appreciation, we will reach out to affected customers in the coming days with a good faith gesture that acknowledges the disruption. We are grateful for your continued loyalty and support.

The post does not specify the nature of the gesture.

Some customers will have lost money as a result of the downtime, which lasted about up to six hours, but there will be many more who won’t have even noticed they were affected.

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“Whistleblower” accuses Nominet of trying to dodge freedom of information law

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2012, Domain Policy

Nominet, the .uk registry, tried to evade the Freedom Of Information Act by using private email addresses to communicate with the British government, according to emails leaked by a disgruntled former executive.

Copies of the emails provided to DI by former policy director Emily Taylor appear to show that Nominet and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform worked secretly in 2008 to invite government regulatory oversight of the .uk namespace.

Back then, Nominet’s elected board of directors was seen as being in danger of being taken over by domainers who were hostile to Nominet’s management and the rest of its board.

The company was ultimately restructured following an independent review, and Parliament passed legislation that enables the government to take over .uk if it appears to be in danger of capture.

The party line to date has been that the review was commissioned in October 2008, only after BERR wrote to Nominet to express concerns about its governance problems.

That position is looking increasingly open to question, however.

As I reported for The Register last month, an employment tribunal seemed to agree with Taylor that Nominet had approached BERR to discuss this so-called “Plan G” first.

The latest leaked emails, assuming they’re genuine, also make the Nominet position appear less believable.

This is the text of an email apparently sent from the personal email account of BERR civil servant Geoff Smith to the personal email account of Nominet senior policy adviser Martin Boyle:

Martin

Thanks. It was helpful to talk earlier. I have had a look at your mark up and the additional point by Emily. All good stuff but – as I said – I think the heart of our letter has to be a set of reasonable and intelligent questions that a senior civil servant, not familiar with the inner workings of the company, might ask. As I said earlier, if it needs translation from the Mandarin, then it has failed. Equally, if it reads like a Nominet management position paper on BERR letterhead then it has also failed. I will look seriously at your amendments and try and produce a version for David’s signature over the next two days.

It feels wonderful to work free from fear of FOI !!

Geoff

The email is dated October 8, 2008, a week before the BERR letter (pdf) that kicked off the independent governance review.

The “fear of FOI” is of course a reference to the Freedom Of Information Act, which enables British citizens to request government documentation including emails.

By using personal email accounts, Nominet and BERR would have been able to keep their negotiations out of reach of the FOIA.

The emails, again assuming they’re genuine, also show that Mark Carvell, senior advisor at BERR and longstanding UK representative on ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, was using his personal email account to communicate with Nominet executives during the same period.

In one email, Boyle encourages Carvell and Smith to delete emails in anticipation of a FOI request.

Sent: Fri, 31 October, 2008 18:55:18
Subject: FW: [nom-steer] Save Nom-steer!

Geoff, Mark

This e-mail (below) – posted on nom-steer – makes me think that a FoI is just around the corner!

Most obvious would be the e-mail from me asking when we might expect the letter, but Pauline used this as the mail to reply to with the signed letter from David.

You might wish to trawl over your mails – in and out – to do a bit of pruning and suggest to Pauline that a couple might need to be deleted, too.

I’ve spoken to Tom and he is aware, too.

Martin Boyle

Attached is a forwarded email from domainer Andrew Bennett, then a member of Nominet’s Policy Advisory Board, which appears to show Bennett researching relationships between the company and BERR.

There’s no evidence that Smith or Carvell did delete any emails.

BERR has changed names a couple of times under successive governments, and is now the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. Carvell is now at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Taylor has provided her documents to Nominet’s local MP, Andrew Smith, who has referred the matter to the Head of the Home Civil Service and the chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

Trying to avoid FOI is frowned upon.

Last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office said that “information held in private email accounts can be subject to Freedom of Information law if it relates to official business”.

In addition to the FOIA claims, Taylor alleges that there is “an inappropriately close relationship between government officials in DCMS, BIS, and possibly Ofcom, and Nominet.”

Nominet told DI today that it is looking into the matter but declined to comment further.

Last month, when Taylor’s employment tribunal documents became public, the company issued a statement in which it denied instigating the government’s request for an independent review, saying:

This is not the case. Two major organisations (an ISP and a major British trade body) had already been in contact with BERR prior to any discussions between Nominet and the Government. Again, Nominet took actions focussed on supporting the ongoing trust in .uk and that we believed supported the goals of our membership as a whole. As you would expect of an organisation responsible for a piece of critical UK Internet infrastructure, we maintain a constant dialogue with the Government – but all conversations on this matter post-date the initial raising of concerns by stakeholders.

Taylor claims, however, that the ISP and the trade body (BT and the Confederation of British Industry) approached BERR at the behest of herself and other Nominet executives.

As previously reported, Taylor resigned from her position at Nominet in 2009, not long after returning to work following a period of stress-related sick leave.

An employment tribunal found last year that she had been constructively dismissed — that is, essentially forced out — by Nominet after she filed a grievance against her colleagues and they grew to distrust her. She’s currently an independent consultant.

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