ICANN chairman loses mind over his domain-name privacy shakeup

Outburst on conference call reflects efforts to control critical issue

And where are we now?

On the call, Crocker referenced the group he had decided to create as the main reason why the review should be scrapped.

"Perpetuating those words... would be an extreme mistake. If they are put in, it would mean rolling back the work that the expert group has done, killing off the work that GNSO is doing in this area, and in general turning away from any attempt to improve the Whois system." He added:

The Whois review has a very deep and fundamental flaw that absolutely must not be included as is. The idea of continuing to look at Whois is perfectly fine, but there has been an enormous amount of work and an enormous amount of money and time and energy spent trying to lead a path away from the presumptions built into the existing language in the AoC document.

The expert group was created in December 2012, produced an "initial report" in June 2013, and then a final report in June 2014. That final report, which proposed an entire rethink of WHOIS, sparked some controversy when the only privacy advocate on the group was prevented from publishing a dissenting opinion.

It is now more than a year since the report was published, and nearly three since the new group was created, but there has been little or no movement on the report's recommendations and few improvements in the problems and flaws in ICANN that were identified in the original WHOIS review team report.

However, since it has been three years since the last review, it is time for ICANN to open up the second review into Whois, and that is what ICANN's chairman is trying to stop. In previous second reviews, the review team has spent a significant amount of time looking at how ICANN has responded to the recommendations from the first review and then highlighted where the organization has failed to make changes.

It is safe to assume that ICANN has not made many, if any, changes to how it handles WHOIS. That would open the organization – and Crocker personally – to significant criticism from the US government and US business interests around the same time that the organization is arguing it should be given full control of the IANA contract and accountability measures to make it more responsive should be limited.

In addition, ICANN's grand plan to redraw the WHOIS system has gone nowhere in three years and its most recent efforts to make changes have led to one of the broadest and most public criticisms the organization has ever faced.

In short, everything about WHOIS makes ICANN look incompetent at best and deliberately manipulative at worst. Faced with having its failure included in a public report, ICANN has done what comes naturally to it: pressure the internet community to hide the information.

As its chairman makes clear, in ICANN's eyes, allowing the organization to be subject to criticism is a "destructive and inappropriate thing to do."

We reached out to Steve Crocker several days ago and asked which aspects of the current WHOIS review wording he was opposed to and why, and why he felt the current approach being taken by the working group was wrong. He has failed to respond. ®

 

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