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Another Whois-Privacy Stalemate

The report of the Whois Working Group was published today. The Working Group could not achieve agreement on how to reconcile privacy and data protection rights with the interests of intellectual property holders and law enforcement agencies. So the Working Group Chair redefined the meaning of “agreement.”

See the full story at the Internet Governance Project site.

By Milton Mueller, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy

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Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Aug 23, 2007 6:39 AM

and from the IGP blog post -

They tried to whittle down the shielding of data to natural persons whose internet activities were completely noncommercial in nature.

Yeah. That is how it works, anywhere else in the world.

In reality, on most of the key issues there was no agreement, just the same division of opinion between registries, registrars and civil society on the one hand, and trademark and law enforcement interests on the other.

And you expected anything different, maybe?

Registries, registrars for cost reasons.  “Civil Society” for privacy issues (an overbroad term .. I’m civil society myself, as are various other people like John Levine and others - and we would be more often than not in complete disagreement with a lot of what you say, so please dont claim that your views represent “civil society”).

And law enforcement / IP lawyers for entirely different reasons. To prevent genuine harm from fraudulent domain registrations v/s protecting a brand - there’s a huge difference there. 

You have four fundamentally diverse groups - with whatever common cause that is made being made for diametrically opposite reasons, in some cases, trying to find consensus, and any that is obtained WILL be rough, if obtained at all.

And the rough consensus model is just that - rough consensus.  If you think it is being “abused” because it works as designed .. calling a phone # is far cheaper than flying to every exotic location in the world that ICANN next happens to meet at, and there’s no shortage of voip clients (skype and such) that this huge group of civil society people that share your ideas can call in, just as easily as trademark lawyers and law enforcement can.

Milton Mueller  –  Aug 24, 2007 5:17 AM

>Suresh Ramasubramanian said:

They tried to whittle down the shielding of data to natural persons whose >internet activities were completely noncommercial in nature.

>Yeah. That is how it works, anywhere else in the world.

No, in fact it isn’t. Natural persons, yes; noncommercial, not necessarily. It was made clear by several European participants that “sole traders” or what we would in the US call “home office” people have the same privacy rights as natural persons. And of course that makes sense whether one is inside or outside Europe. The other problem with attempting to classify people or domains as “noncommercial” is that it obviously doesn’t work, for the reasons the report describes. The commercial/ noncommercial status of a domain can change over time. And there is no bright line between commercial and noncommercial activity. We DID in fact reach rough consensus on that point; the group agreed to shield data for natural persons regardless of their “commercial” status.

>And the rough consensus model is just that - rough consensus.  If you think it is >being “abused” because it works as designed

You apparently did not read the blog, or prefer to waste everyone’s time by distorting arguments in order to give your personal hostility an outlet. The blog explained that the Working Group chairman departed from a standard of “rough consensus” and adopted a “majority” standard for determining agreement. So your reference to the “rough consensus model” is perfectly irrelevant.

This unilateral change of the criteria for measuring agreement during the end game is undoubtedly an abuse of the proces. For that reason I am quite confident the WG report will not be adopted as is.

Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Aug 24, 2007 7:39 AM

Oh. So the majority opinion was against whatever opinion you were able to drum up?  Interesting. 

Like I said, there’s nothing that stopped half a dozen of your grad students (and various others from your project) from calling in to participate, if you thought the ballot was getting stuffed the way you say it was.

Right now, whatever consensus even exists is going to be very rough if at all achieved. And that will be the case as no one stakeholder in this deal has a common reasoning behind the points from the wg report that he voted for.

You apparently did not read the blog, or prefer to waste everyone’s time by distorting arguments in order to give your personal hostility an outlet.

Strangely enough, your personal hostility to anybody at all who disagrees with you shines through just about every single “blog post” your “project” makes.  I am only surprised that you went beyond your usual style of veiled innuendo and outright accused the whois wg chair of gerrymandering the report.

Yes the wg report is not going to get anywhere near a two thirds majority.  So, I confidently expect that the status quo about full whois (e&oe registrar proxy anonymization and deliberately faked data) will persist for the next several years’ ICANN meetings.

That is probably a good thing - the kind of botched concept that OPOC is turning out to be is no substitute for the status quo.

John Berryhill  –  Aug 26, 2007 5:33 AM

We need more consultants to AT&T and Verizon to preach to us about privacy.

They’ve been pretty good about protecting the privacy of illegal government surveillance programs.  Maybe they can share the love.

Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Aug 26, 2007 7:38 AM

There are other people with rather more reasoned opinions:

Presentation by OPTA Netherlands on “The Importance of Whois Databases for Spam Enforcement” -

Comments from the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE) -

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