ICANN plans to give a French registrar the ability to opt out of parts of the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement due to data privacy concerns.
OVH, the 14th-largest registrar of gTLD domains, asked ICANN to waive parts of the RAA that would require it to keep hold of registrant Whois data for two years after it stops having a relationship with the customer.
The company asked for the requirement to be reduced to one year, based on a French law and a European Union Directive.
ICANN told registrars last April that they would be able to opt-out of these rules if they provided a written opinion from a local jurist opining that to comply would be illegal.
OVH has provided such an opinion and now ICANN, having decided on a preliminary basis to grant the request, is asking for comments before making a final decision.
If granted, it would apply to “would apply to similar waivers requested by other registrars located in the same jurisdiction”, ICANN said.
It’s not clear if that means France or the whole EU — my guess is France, given that EU Directives can be implemented in different ways in different member states.
Throughout the 2013 RAA negotiation process, data privacy was a recurring concern for EU registrars. It’s not just a French issue.
ICANN has more details, including OVH’s request and links for commenting, here.
Registrars based in the European Union won’t immediately be able to opt out of “illegal” data retention provisions in the new 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, according to ICANN.
ICANN VP Cyrus Namazi on Saturday told the Governmental Advisory Committee that a recent letter from the Article 29 Working Party, which comprises the data protection authorities of EU member states, is “not a legal authority”.
Article 29 told ICANN last month that the RAA’s provisions requiring registrars to hold registrant data for two years after the domain expires were “illegal”.
While the RAA allows registrars to opt out of clauses that would be illegal for them to comply with, they can only do so with the confirmation of an adequate legal opinion.
The Article 29 letter was designed to give EU registrars that legal opinion across the board.
But according to Namazi, the letter does not meet the test. In response to a question from the Netherlands, he told the GAC:
We accept it from being an authority, but it’s not a legal authority, is our interpretation of it. That it actually has not been adopted into legislation by the EU. When and if it becomes adopted then of course there are certain steps to ensure that our contracted parties are in line with — in compliance with it. But we look at them as an authority but not a legal authority at this stage.
It seems that when the privacy watchdogs of the entire European Union tell ICANN that it is in violation of EU privacy law, that’s not taken as an indication that it is in fact in violation of EU privacy law.
The European Commission representative on the GAC expressed concern about this development during Saturday’s session, which took place at ICANN 47 in Durban, South Africa.
ICANN’s board of directors is set to vote next week on the 2013 Registrar Accreditation agreement, but we hear some last-minute objections have emerged from registrars.
The new RAA has been about two years in the making. It will make registrars verify email addresses and do some rudimentary mailing address validation when new domains are registered.
It will also set in motion a process for ICANN oversight of proxy/privacy services and some aspects of the reseller business. In order to sell domain names in new gTLDs, registrars will have to sign up to the 2013 RAA.
ICANN has put approval of the contract on its board’s June 27 agenda.
But I gather that some registrars are unhappy about some last-minute changes ICANN has made to the draft deal.
For one, some linguistic tweaks to the text have given registrars an “advisory” role in seeking out technical ways to do the aforementioned address validation, which has caused some concern that ICANN may try to mandate expensive commercial solutions without their approval.
There also appears to be some concern that the new contract now requires registrars to make sure their resellers follow the same rules on proxy/privacy services, which wasn’t in previous drafts.
Law enforcement agencies are not happy with the proposed 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, saying it doesn’t go far enough to help them catch online bad guys.
Europol and the FBI told ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee yesterday that people need to have their full identities verified before they’re allowed to register domain names.
They added that new gTLDs shouldn’t be allowed to launch until a tougher RAA is agreed to and signed by registrars.
The draft 2013 RAA would force registrars to validate their customers’ email addresses or phone numbers after selling them a domain, but law enforcement thinks this is not enough.
“We need a bit more in this area,” Troels Oerting, head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, told the GAC during a Sunday session. “We need a bit more to be verified in addition to the phone or email.”
“It’s very, very important that we are able to identify perpetrators able, to identify the originators, and it’s not enough that you just put in the email or phone,” he said.
He added that there should also be re-verification procedures and ongoing compliance monitoring from ICANN, and said that only registrars signing the 2013 RAA should be allowed to sell new gTLD domains.
Europol has sent a letter to ICANN (not yet published, it seems) outlining four areas it wants to see the RAA “improved”, Oerting said.
Given that many GAC members, including the US, seem to support this position, it’s yet another threat to ICANN’s new gTLD launch timetable, not to mention privacy and anonymous speech in general.
The law enforcement recommendations are not new, of course. They’ve been in play and GAC-endorsed for many years, but were watered down during ICANN’s RAA talks with registrars.
ICANN and domain name registrars will fail to agree on a new Registrar Accreditation Agreement by the end of the year, ICANN has admitted.
In a statement Friday, ICANN said that it will likely miss its end-of-year target for completing the RAA talks:
While the registrars and ICANN explored potential dates for negotiation in December 2012, both sides have agreed that between holidays, difficult travel schedules and the ICANN Prioritization Draw for New gTLDs, a December meeting is not feasible. Therefore, negotiations will resume in January 2013, and the anticipated date for publication of a draft RAA for community comment will be announced in January as well.
The sticking point appears to still be the recommendations for strengthening registrars’ Whois accuracy commitments, as requested by law enforcement agencies and governments.
At the Toronto meeting in October, progress appeared to have been made on all 12 of the LEA recommendations, but the nitty-gritty of the Whois verification asks had yet to be ironed out.
Potentially confusing matters, ICANN has launched a parallel root-and-branch Whois policy reform initiative, a community process which may come to starkly different conclusions to the RAA talks.
Before the LEA issues are settled, ICANN doesn’t want to start dealing with requests for RAA changes from the registrars themselves, which include items such as dumping their “burdensome” port 43 Whois obligations for gTLD registries that have thick Whois databases.
ICANN said Friday:
Both ICANN and the registrars have additional proposed changes which have not yet been negotiated. As previously discussed, it has been ICANN’s position that the negotiations on key topics within the law enforcement recommendations need to come to resolution prior to concluding negotiations on these additional areas.
Registrars agreed under duress to start renegotiating the RAA following a public berating from the Governmental Advisory Committee at the ICANN Dakar meeting October 2011.
At the time, the law enforcement demands had already been in play for two years with no substantial progress. Following Dakar, ICANN and the registrars said they planned to have a new RAA ready by March 2012.
Judging by the latest update, it seems quite likely that the new RAA will be a full year late.
ICANN has targeted the Beijing meeting in April next year for approval of the RAA. It’s one of the 12 targets Chehade set himself following Toronto.
Given that the draft agreement will need a 42-day public comment period first, talks are going to have to conclude before the end of February if there’s any hope of hitting that deadline.