ICANN announced on Friday that it has teamed up with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago (NORC) to undertake a study on the accuracy of WHOIS contact data for domain names. The study will test the WHOIS data from a sample of domains from across different TLDs and different countries, and rank the accuracy of the name and contact information of each WHOIS registrant.
There is an overall lack of accountability in the domain name space and false WHOIS data is a part of the problem. When registrants use fake names or addresses, it becomes extremely difficult to track them down in pursuit of transferring the domains to those who have legitimate rights to them. This not only costs brand owners time and money, but also decreases the level of fair and open competition in the entire domain name system, which is one of the central principles that ICANN seeks to uphold.
This study is a great start to addressing the issue of false WHOIS data—unfortunately, given the current scope of the problem, this step has come much too late in the game. As I’ve said in previous posts, while it is always encouraging to see progress towards better policy, the pace at which steps are taken at ICANN is disheartening. Studying a problem is not the same as fixing it, and ICANN needs to find a solution to this problem sooner rather than later. I’m eager to see how ICANN plans to utilize the findings of this study and what actions it will take in the future to address the issue of false WHOIS.
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