Whois Database Threatened to Be Wiped Away With GDPR

Whois Database Threatened to Be Wiped Away With GDPR
Rhett Pardon

LONGWOOD, Fla. — In less than a month, the often-used and essential Whois public database of domain name registration details will black out.

ICANN, the domain name authority, plans to shut down public access to most information regarding owners of domain names once the European GDPR privacy mandate goes into effect on May 25.

A host of professionals — from attorneys to journalists to security professionals — regularly use and depend on the Whois database and have been urging ICANN to keep it open, at least to them.

So far, a compromise over making Whois data, in some limited form, available has yet to be worked.

ICANN CEO Goran Marby has been pushing for a moratorium on GDPR enforcement on Whois data until a substitute system gets employed.

Marby seeks a moratorium from the E.U. lawmakers because of “the importance of balancing the right to privacy with the need for information,” and the difficulty of effectuating the blackout. 

Marby also pointed out the detrimental effect of a possible Whois blackout. He said a blackout would protect cybercrime perpetrators, hamper consumer protection, inhibit trademark enforcement and make it harder to identify and fight fake news.

Industry attorney Lawrence Walters, who has studied the new European privacy regulations, said that the GDPR may result in substantial changes to historically open databases like Whois.

“Closing or limiting access to such information could pose significant hurdles to intellectual property enforcement by making infringers harder to identify,” Walters told XBIZ. 

“Hopefully, ICANN and the E.U. will agree to a compromise that will allow some degree of access to personal contact details for specified ‘legitimate’ purposes.”