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ICANN Files Legal Action Against Domain Registrar for Refusal to Collect WHOIS Data

Germany-based ICANN-accredited registrar EPAG owned by Tucows has informed ICANN that it plans to stop collecting Whois contact information from its customers as it violates the GDPR rules. As a result, ICANN on Friday filed legal action against the company asking the court for “assistance in interpreting the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in order to protect the data collected in WHOIS.” John Jeffrey, ICANN’s General Counsel and Secretary says: “We are filing an action in Germany to protect the collection of WHOIS data and to seek further clarification that ICANN may continue to require its collection. It is ICANN’s public interest role to coordinate a decentralized global WHOIS for the generic top-level domain system. ICANN contractually requires the collection of data by over 2,500 registrars and registries who help ICANN maintain that global information resource.”

Update May 28, 2018: Tucows issues a statement on ICANN legal action. “Fundamentally, ICANN and Tucows disagree on how the GDPR impacts our contract. The facts and the law as we see them do not support ICANN’s broader view of what will impact the security and stability of the internet. Neither do we find the purposes outlined in the temporary specification proportional to the risks and consequences of continuing to collect, process and display unnecessary data.”

Update May 31, 2018: German regional court has determined that it would not issue an injunction against EPAG. John Jeffrey, ICANN’s General Counsel and Secretary responds: “While ICANN appreciates the prompt attention the Court paid to this matter, the Court’s ruling today did not provide the clarity that ICANN was seeking when it initiated the injunction proceedings. ICANN is continuing to pursue the ongoing discussions with the European Commission, and WP29, to gain further clarification of the GDPR as it relates to the integrity of WHOIS services.”

Update Jun 14, 2018: ICANN Appeals German Court Decision. ICANN has appealed the decision by the Regional Court in Bonn, Germany not to issue an injunction in proceedings that ICANN initiated against EPAG. The appeal was filed to the Higher Regional Court of Cologne, Germany… ICANN is asking the Higher Regional Court to issue an injunction that would require EPAG to reinstate the collection of all WHOIS data required under EPAG’s Registrar Accreditation Agreement with ICANN.

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Chaos Hans-Peter Oswald  –  May 28, 2018 8:16 AM

Collecting data of domain owner is necessary for managing a domain and writing invoices. This is allowed by GDPR, as all data collection, which is necessary, is permitted.

ICANN has published a new Temporary Specification for gTLD Registration Data, which permits registries and registrars to hide whois data. This is a solution which reminds at the wisdom of Solomon.

But there are different opinions among registries about the data, which have to be hidden. One could get the impression, that chaos prevails.

One example:
BAKOM from Switzerland will not hide WHOIS data of .ch, as it says, that there is
a legal basis for the publication. But BAKOM will hide the personal data at .swiss, as it ia a generic domain and BAKOM follows therefore the guidelines of ICANN.

Hans-Peter Oswald


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