WHOIS Remains--For Now

A committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) , the organization that manages the Internet domain name system, has decided to leave the WHOIS database as it is, at least for now.

The committee, which has been discussing changes to the WHOIS database for seven years, voted 17-7 Wednesday to continue studying the issue.

The committee, called the Generic Names Supporting Organization, also voted 17-7 against a proposal that would have allowed "natural persons," people who register domain names for purposes other than conducting business over the Internet, to list the contact information of designated third parties in the WHOIS database, rather than their own.

The WHOIS registry is the legacy database of the domain name system. It contains the names and contact information of those who register Internet domains. Currently, anyone is able to access the data contained in the database.

Privacy advocates have argued that the information contained in the WHOIS database should be shielded from the public to protect the privacy of individual registrants. However, businesses, intellectual property holders and members of law enforcement have argued for open access to the WHOIS database, saying it helps them go after phishers, trademark infringers, copyright violators and scammers.

By a 13-10 vote, the committee also voted down the "sunset" option that would have let domain name registrars make their own decisions about whether to allow public access to the information in the WHOIS database. Currently, their contracts with ICANN require them to make this information public.

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