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ICANN Meets with Belgian Data Protection Authority

19 February 2020
By Göran Marby

The ICANN organization met with the Belgian Data Protection Authority (DPA) on 14 February 2020 to continue the dialogue about a possible Unified Access Model (UAM) for gTLD registration data. The meeting followed publication of ICANN org’s “Exploring a Unified Access Model for gTLD Registration Data” paper and accompanying questions sent to the European Data Protection Board in October 2019, and the Belgian Data Protection Authority’s 12 December 2019 initial, non-binding response to the paper. Given the progress made by the Expedited Policy Development Process (EPDP) Phase 2 Team on a System for Standardized Access/Disclosure, Chair Janis Karklins provided an overview of the initial report and the status of the team’s work. Representatives from the European Commission also participated in the meeting.

At the meeting, ICANN org reiterated that the UAM was proposed for discussion purposes, as part of an effort to clarify the legal foundation upon which a model could be built. ICANN org noted that the ICANN community ultimately recommends a model and develops the policies underpinning that model. Additionally, the EPDP Chair noted that his presence at the meeting should not be considered as an endorsement of the UAM by the community.

The Belgian DPA’s representatives asked questions about the paper and next steps on the EPDP’s initial report, including public comments and the ICANN Board’s consideration of the policy recommendations. The Belgian DPA’s representatives also shared comments regarding two topics that are key to the development of an access model: the possibility of creating a centralized model that is compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the ability to automate various functions in this model.

With respect to the possibility of developing a centralized model that is GDPR-compliant, the representatives said that the letter from the Belgian DPA was intended as encouragement to continue efforts to develop a comprehensive system for access. They said that the letter was not meant to deter the development of a centralized model. Rather, the Belgian DPA’s representatives said a centralized model is worth exploring and it seems to be a better, “common sense” option in terms of security and for data subjects. They cautioned, however, that the Belgian DPA is not in the position to give a definitive opinion on the question of controllership of such model.

With respect to automation, the Belgian DPA’s representatives noted that the GDPR would not prohibit the automation of various functions in an access model. It is not how the disclosure decision is made that matters, but to be able to demonstrate that any algorithm automating decision-making considers the criteria required for such a decision to be compliant with the GDPR.

ICANN org thanks the Belgian DPA, the European Commission, and the EPDP Chair for their engagement on this important topic. We look forward to further collaborating with them as ICANN continues to work toward the development of an access model.


Göran Marby

Göran Marby

Former President & CEO