by Jean-Francois Baril, EWG Facilitator
With the ICANN Buenos Aires Meeting rapidly approaching, I’d like to provide an update on the work of the Expert Working Group (EWG) and its progress since the ICANN 47 Meeting.
After the Board’s action last November, ICANN embarked on a comprehensive program to improve the quality and utility of domain name registration data made publicly available today. Two major efforts were initiated to address the current weaknesses. One of these is aimed at strengthening the existing system in the short-term without changing the underlying process. This effort is focused on implementing recommendations made by the WHOIS Review Team, which included a strengthening of the contractual requirements in the registration accreditation agreements with registries and registrars. The second effort is a strategic review and potential replacement of the entire system. This led to the creation of the EWG to examine the needs for domain name registration data and possible alternatives to better satisfy them.
The EWG was created to help resolve the nearly decade-long deadlock within the ICANN community on how to replace the current WHOIS system, which the WHOIS Review Team noted is widely regarded as “broken.” There were concerns that the existing WHOIS system was outdated, as its origins trace back to the 1970s during the Arpanet era. More recently, there have been a large number of complaints about the accuracy and utility of the current WHOIS system and of its impact on the privacy of domain name registrants.
The EWG’s mandate is to reexamine and define the purpose of collecting and maintaining gTLD domain name registration data, to consider how to safeguard the data, and to propose a next generation directory services solution that will better serve the needs of the global Internet community. The EWG serves as a “design team,” tasked with reporting back to ICANN’s CEO and Board and generating ideas for consideration by the larger community (such as through ICANN’s policy development processes), that may eventually lead to a Board adoption in the future.
EWG Recommendations and Work since Durban
In June, the EWG published an Initial Report [PDF, 1.7 MB] describing its draft recommendations The EWG has considered what gTLD domain name registration data needs to be collected, who wants access to it and for what purposes. The EWG has also considered possible models for ways in which the information’s accuracy might be verified upon collection, how it might be stored, ways that greater accountability for information access and use might be achieved, and how the information might be maintained. The group is now actively working on a final report, based on additional research and comments received from the ICANN community.
As the EWG facilitator, I am genuinely pleased with the substantial response and reaction to the Initial Report [PDF, 1.7 MB]. Over 100 responses were received to the questions posed in the online questionnaire, along with over 30 public comment submissions. The EWG focused its recent activities on carefully examining the community feedback with a goal of further refining its recommendations.
Because the EWG’s deliberations are still ongoing, the EWG will post its Status Report on November 8th to highlight its current thinking for discussion in Buenos Aires and online. This Status Report will describe the EWG’s analysis on key issues raised by the community, such as
- Identifying the data elements to be freely available on an anonymous basis, and those that might require authenticated, gated access through accreditation for permissible purposes
- Details on the principles for better privacy or proxy services and a proposal for secured protected credentials for use by at-risk individuals
- Consideration of jurisdictional and applicable law issues, notably data protection law, and suggestions for ensuring harmonized approaches to data protection and security measures
- Exploration of how existing technical protocols could be utilized by the EWG’s recommended implementation model (such as EPP or the RDAP protocol under development by the IETF)
- Comparison of the current WHOIS system (as improved in the 2013 RAA) to the EWG’s recommended next-generation registration data directory service
- Description of various implementation models examined by the EWG, including a detailed comparison of pro and cons
We look forward to seeing you all in Buenos Aires and receiving your input online, and we hope that our Status Report will lead to substantial discussion and constructive debate throughout the entire community. We welcome that dialogue with you.