March 26, 2003

ICANN and privacy

I can't described how badly ICANN has fumbled the issue of privacy of the whois databases.

ICANN has been in existence for more than four years, and during that entire time, ICANN has again and again has not merely evaded the issue of privacy but has actively taken measures to eliminate privacy.

Does anyone in ICANN have children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews who use the Internet?  Would they be willing to publish the names, addresses, e-mails, and phone numbers of those children on a public registry open 24x7 to all the predators and pornographers of the world?

Yet that is exactly what ICANN has done - ICANN has created Megan's Law in reverse - instead of publishing the names of the predators to warn the potential victims, ICANN's policies publish the names of the potential victims to be perused by would-be predators and pornographers.

And why is ICANN pursuing this insane policy?  The answer is that a few business interests want to save a few dollars when they accuse someone of abusing a trademark.

Is ICANN's judgment so skewed that it is willing to sacrifice our privacy and the safety of our children to benefit a few trademark holders?  Is it  ICANN's judgment that it is more important to protect trademarks than to protect our children from pornography?

ICANN is on the verge of adopting mandatory requirements for "accuracy" in domain name registrations.  Accuracy is nice, but in the absence of real privacy protections accuracy is really nothing but a euphemism for painting a more precise target on the backs of citizens and their families.

It will be a sorry, but very foreseeable day, when ICANN is asked to apologize to the parents of a child who, as the result of publishing a personal web page for a school or church project, has been molested by a predator who learned the child's name, address, and phone number from the whois database.

It is time for ICANN to remember that ICANN was established to benefit the public and that ICANN obtains substantial benefits because of its public-benefit, charitable status.  It is time for ICANN to remember that it exists to serve the public interest.  It is time for ICANN to protect personal privacy instead of destroying it.

I predict that should ICANN adopt the completely unbalanced "accuracy" requirements that there will rise a new industry consisting of entities that are willing to perform proxy registrations on behalf of people who wish to protect their privacy.

Sure, ICANN is establishing a "privacy" committee.  And perhaps it might eventually be as productive as ICANN's vaunted security committee - a committee that has been in existence ever since November 2001 but has yet to do anything about security.

Posted by karl at March 26, 2003 9:43 AM