WHOIS databases are particularly useful for finding information on domain name holders. Their name (who is) clearly indicates their purpose, which is to provide essential information about protagonists with regards to a domain name and especially concerning the name reservation date, the registrant, the administrative contact details or the registry office of the domain name. In summary, WHOIS is the database of domain names registered with a registrar or a registry.
In application of the Affirmative of Commitment (AoC) of 30 September 2009, ICANN is responsible for implementing existing policy regarding the WHOIS, under the auspices of applicable legislation. To this effect, the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), a contract by which ICANN accredits a registry office, outlines their obligations, especially concerning the accuracy of WHOIS data. The latest accreditation contract, the RAA 2013, came into effect on 1st January 2014. The registry office is required to take all reasonable measures in the event that inaccuracies within the WHOIS database are notified by “any parties”.
The present WHOIS service has a number of weaknesses and needs to be reformed to adapt to the digital world and e-commerce in particular. An Expert Working Group was formed by ICANN in 2013 to examine the registration service for gTLDs. The aim is to replace the current service with another, the Aggregated Registration Data Service (ARDS), by which the data would only be collected, validated and shared for authorized purposes such as spot checks, domain name research or to protect personal data. In addition, only certain data would be available to authorized enquirers who would be held accountable for its use.
Currently this project has not been finalized since questions remain outstanding relating to costs and implications. The Group is awaiting community feedback on their initial proposals before going further. And already a number of contentious issues have been raised…the project will need time to be developed and adapted before being launched.
To be followed…