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ICANN SSAD Proposal Poised to Succeed?

The GNSO Council and the ICANN Board both seem poised to grant sufficient runway to the community to refine an idea for a simple ticketing system designed to centralize requests for registrant information disclosures and provide meaningful data that is likely to help ICANN staff enhance its assessment of the SSAD proposal. This is very good news for those who advocate for consumer safety and trust on the Internet, and it is very good news for the ICANN multistakeholder model.

The ICANN Board Chair, Maarten Botterman, wrote to the GNSO Council asking for its assessments of the outcomes (called an ODA) of the Staff’s Operation Design Phase assessment for the SSAD. In his letter, Mr. Botterman asked a very important question, namely, “Does the Council have other suggestions that address the cost and complexity concerns we cited above?” What occurred next is what makes the ICANN multistakeholder model so laudable and may ultimately lead to a more informed decision by the ICANN Board on the SSAD recommendations.

The GNSO Council formed a small team to review the correspondence from Mr. Botterman and provide its reaction to the full Council. Council will then take those inputs from the small team and decide how to respond to Mr. Botterman and the rest of the ICANN Board. Instead of falling into entrenched positions which have led to frustration over the years since the GDPR made it much more difficult to identify bad actors in the marketplace, members of that small team set aside differences and have been working at a fevered pace to develop the concept of the simple ticketing system (STS) to pass along to the Council at its next meeting. Importantly, the ICANN Board and Staff are also engaging robustly in the process: attending calls and asking questions. ICANN Staff is currently looking into what the STS may cost and how long it would take to develop.

The great news about the STS is that, in addition to the benefits of centralization and standardization, it will yield actual data about:

  • the origin of requests
  • the nature of the requests
  • the registrars receiving the requests
  • the speed of the response to the request
  • whether or not the registrar responds
  • whether or not a disclosure is ultimately made (keeping in mind that disclosures are not automatic under the GDPR—the registrar must still conduct a balancing test to determine whether or not a disclosure is proper).

There seems to be little disagreement among the small team that these are important data points to be collected that would help enhance the ODA. Some on the small team, including myself, believe that it will also yield important information about the number of users and the number of requests that a future SSAD may get—an important metric missing in the ODA. Others on the small team believe that since the STS is not the SSAD itself, the usage data will not be reliable or an indicator of future use. Perhaps, or perhaps not, but we will learn a lot from the STS experiment in any event.

I am very optimistic that the GNSO Council will recommend to the ICANN Board that it suspend consideration of the SSAD proposal for now and give the community the runway that it needs to fully consider the STS idea and answer the remaining questions. The STS has the possibility of evidencing to the world what many of us already know, namely, that the multistakeholder model is alive and well and that ICANN is capable of solving some of the thorniest problems out there. I encourage both the GNSO Council and the ICANN Board to seize the opportunity and provide that runway and encourage the work around the STS.

By Paul McGrady, Attorney / Author

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