Whois allows you to look up the name and contact information of whoever operates any website domain – or at least, it should. But it isn't always accurate. In some cases, Whois contact information is patently false, listing as website operators
As part of ICANN's Affirmation of Commitments responsibilities, Whois policy recently underwent extensive review by an independent team comprised of representatives from across the ICANN constituencies, a law enforcement representative, and two independent experts. The Whois Policy Review Team's scope was to "review the extent to which ICANN's Whois policy and its implementation are effective, meet the legitimate needs of law enforcement, and promote consumer trust."
The team has posted a draft of their Final Report [PDF, 1.04 MB] for public comment until 18 March 2012. Comprehensive and understandable, the report lays out systematically what the team found lacking with Whois policy and what they think should be done about it.
For example, after reviewing Whois policy and its implementation, the team determined that it has not kept pace with the real world (citing the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names and the emergence of privacy and proxy services). Further, the team finds that ICANN has neglected to respond to the needs of law enforcement communities "both in the accuracy of Whois data and in response times for access and action," and also finds that the current implementation of Whois services does not help to build consumer trust. (See the team's report [PDF, 1.04 MB] for a full explanation of their findings).
The topic of Whois touches upon a wide-ranging constellation of related topics. The report says, "Issues abound including right to privacy, anonymity, intellectual property protection, security and abuse, among others. Each is important. None more so than the other." Nonetheless, the team forged ahead to list 20 recommendations for fixing Whois.
Recommendations offered by the team for community input are aimed at increasing data accuracy, ensuring data access (including when privacy and proxy services are involved), and advancing a Whois model for Internationalized Domain Names, as well as making Whois a strategic priority with sufficient resources, communication, and outreach efforts. The draft report includes recommendations for specific actions in all of these areas (such as ICANN taking measures to reduce the number of "unreachable" WHOIS registrations by 50% within 12 months, as referenced above).
Although the comment period is open until March, the team is hoping for substantive comments from the public now. Does Whois support ICANN's mission of building consumer trust? What should ICANN do to make Whois more accurate? For thought-provoking reading, and a chance to weigh in on issues that matter to you, download the report from the Public Comment Forum.