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Identity checks coming to Whois

Kevin Murphy, September 25, 2012, 11:13:19 (UTC), Domain Registrars

Pretty soon, if you want to register a domain name in a gTLD you’ll have to verify your email address and/or phone number or risk having your domain turned off.
That’s the latest to come out of talks between registrars, ICANN, governments and law enforcement agencies, which met last week in Washington DC to thrash out a new Registrar Accreditation Agreement.
While a new draft RAA has not yet been published, ICANN has reported some significant breakthroughs since the Prague meeting in June.
Notably, the registrars have agreed for the first time to do some minimal registrant identity checks — phone number and/or email address — at the point of registration.
Verification of mailing addresses and other data points — feared by registrars for massively adding to the cost of registrations — appears to be no longer under discussion.
The registrars have also managed to win another concession: newly registered domain names will be able to go live before identities have been verified, rather than only after.
The sticking point is in the “and/or”. Registrars think they should be able to choose which check to carry out, while ICANN and law enforcement negotiators think they should do both.
According to a memo released for discussion by ICANN last night:

It is our current understanding that law enforcement representatives are willing to accept post-­‐resolution verification of registrant Whois data, with a requirement to suspend the registration if verification is not successful within a specified time period. However, law enforcement recommends that if registrant Whois data is verified after the domain name resolves (as opposed to before), two points of data (a phone number and an email address) should be verified.

Among the other big changes is an agreement by registrars to an ICANN-run Whois privacy service accreditation system. Work is already underway on an accreditation framework.
After it launches, registrars will only be able to accept private registrations made via accredited privacy and proxy services.
Registrars have also agreed to some of law enforcement’s data retention demands, which has been a bone of contention due to worries about varying national privacy laws.
Under the new RAA, they would keep some registrant transaction data for six months after a domain is registered and other data for two years. It’s not yet clear which data falls into which category.
These and other issues outlined in ICANN’s latest update are expected to be talking points in Toronto next month.
It looks like a lot of progress has been made since Prague — no doubt helped by the fact that law enforcement has actually been at the table — and I’d be surprised if we don’t see a draft RAA by Beijing next April.
How long it takes to be adopted ICANN’s hundreds of accredited registrars is another matter.

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Comments (4)

  1. Jean Guillon says:

    Registrars to do some minimal registrant identity check?

  2. Garth Miller says:

    CoCCA already does this at the registry level for a dozen or so small ccTLDs, is not overly complex or onerous. Really it makes more sense for the registry to do it…

  3. Jean Guillon says:

    On a consumer perspective, I agree it makes senses but there is a difference with what can be written on a document and what Registrars really do. Registrars need to sell and whatever blocks or slows them from doing so comes second.
    It is like what the Applicant Guidebook says regarding brands acquiring generic strings for their own use: let’s see what happens in the end. If there was not a way to bypass the rules so many applicants would not have applied.
    “Truth and reality”: welcome to the domain name world…

  4. Flavio R says:

    Isn’t a good news if you have something to hide or want to register multiple accounts, but for most customers I think it’s ok.
    I would like to know more about the whois privacy service accreditation system, will this accreditation service affect the prices?

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