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Does Obama endorse Whois privacy?

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2011, Domain Policy

The US government today released its latest International Strategy For Cyberspace, and it seems to acknowledge privacy rights in domain name registration.

The 30-page document (pdf) envisions a future of the internet that is “open, interoperable, secure, and reliable” and “supports international trade and commerce, strengthens international security, and fosters free expression and innovation”.

It calls for the US and its international partners to set norms that value free speech, security, privacy, respect for intellectual property and (because this is America, remember) the right to self-defense.

Domain names get a mention, in a statement that could be read, without much of a stretch of the imagination, as support in principle for private Whois records:

In this future, individuals and businesses can quickly and easily obtain the tools necessary to set up their own presence online; domain names and addresses are available, secure, and properly maintained, without onerous licenses or unreasonable disclosures of personal information.

That’s open to interpretation, of course – you could debate for years about what is “unreasonable” – but I’m surprised Whois privacy merited even an oblique reference.

Most government and law enforcement statements on the topic tend to pull in the opposite direction.

The new strategy also seems to give ICANN – or at least the ICANN model – the Administration’s support, in a paragraph worth quoting in full:

Preserve global network security and stability, including the domain name system (DNS). Given the Internet’s importance to the world’s economy, it is essential that this network of networks and its underlying infrastructure, the DNS, remain stable and secure. To ensure this continued stability and security, it is imperative that we and the rest of the world continue to recognize the contributions of its full range of stakeholders, particularly those organizations and technical experts vital to the technical operation of the Internet. The United States recognizes that the effective coordination of these resources has facilitated the Internet’s success, and will continue to support those effective, multi-stakeholder processes.

ICANN will not attend White House drugs meeting

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN has declined an invitation from the Obama administration to attend a meeting tomorrow to discuss ways to crack down on counterfeit drugs web sites.

The meeting, first reported by Brian Krebs, was called with an August 13 invitation to “registries, registrars and ICANN” to meet at the White House to talk about “voluntary protocols to address the illegal sale of counterfeit non-controlled prescription medications on-line.”

The meeting is reportedly part of the administration’s Joint Strategic Plan to Combat Intellectual Property Theft, which was announced in June.

It also follows a series of reports from security firms that called into question domain name registrars’ willingness to block domains that are used to sell fake pharma.

ICANN tells me that, following talks with White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, it was agreed that it would “not be appropriate” for ICANN to attend.

The decision was based on the fact that ICANN’s job is to make policy covering internet names and addresses, and not to regulate the content of web sites.

ICANN’s vice president of government affairs for the Americas, Jamie Hedlund, said the meeting was “outside the scope of our role as the technical coordinator of the Internet’s unique identifiers.”

I suspect it also would not have looked great on the global stage if ICANN appeared to be taking its policy cues directly from the US government rather than through its Governmental Advisory Committee.

Demand Media-owned registrar eNom, which has took the brunt of the recent criticism of registrars, recently signed up to a service that will help it more easily identify and terminate domains used to sell counterfeit medicines.