On the other hand, the work on a new protocol to replace Whois (see Section 5.7.3) has explicitly addressed some internationalization issues. Although that work does not address all of the issues raised above, it at least makes it possible to transmit and receive Unicode characters without somehow encoding them into ASCII form and, if it is desired to support local character encodings, to construct a framework for identifying and using them.

Recommendation: The IETF and ICANN should address Whois data internationalization issues with high priority in order to enable their resolution and implementation of the results together with the widespread introduction of IDNs.

5.7.3 Conclusion and Recommendation

The issues concerning the accuracy of and access to Whois data engage the interests of many stakeholders with legitimate but sometimes conflicting interests. They entail actual and potential conflicts with differing national privacy laws. Furthermore, the ICANN agreements with registrars and registries obligate them to accept only consensus policies. Consequently, the best way to achieve improvements in the Whois policies and practices appears to be through the consensus policy development process in which ICANN is engaged. Attempts by individual governments to impose specific requirements on Whois, such as recent legislative initiatives in the U.S. Congress,135 can interfere with these efforts and have counterproductive consequences by inducing registrants to find ways to hide their identities.

Conclusion: Legislative or technical initiatives that construe Whois narrowly will not be productive in the long run and serve only to energize those constituencies that perceive their interests as being compromised.

The committee agrees that access to Whois data should be viewed as a tiered decision, and not as a binary decision. Gradations should exist, as they do in local telephone directories where entries are included by default, but where unlisted numbers can be obtained. Moreover, under certain conditions, law enforcement officials can obtain an individual’s information, even if the individual has opted not to be included in the public directory. Alternatively, individuals can sometimes embellish their ge-


H.R. 3754, 108th Congress, Fraudulent Online Identities Sanctions Act (FOISA).

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