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ICANN on Closing Off Port 43

ICANN has launched three task forces on WHOIS restructuring. Task Force 1 is set to focus on marketing access:

“The purpose of this task force is to determine what contractual changes (if any) are required to allow registrars and registries to protect domain name holder data from data mining for the purposes of marketing.”

It sounds innocuous enough—nobody likes spam—but the restrictions being discussed reach further than marketers. Pushed by registrars who feel that WHOIS amounts to forced disclosure of their customer lists, the task force is seriously discussing closing off port 43‘s straightforward access to WHOIS information, replacing it with GIF-based barriers or similar access restrictions.

Right now, anyone can either use registrars’ web-based interfaces, fire up a command-line client, or programmatically access data over port 43. If some interests on the WHOIS task force get their way, the latter two options will disappear for the ordinary researcher. That won’t necessarily increase privacy, however, because data resellers such as Thomson and Thomson, willing to pay $10,000 a year, will still be able to get it through contractually mandated “bulk access.” What it will mean is that academic researchers doing network studies or archiving and individuals facing challenges from intellectual property claimants will have a harder time gathering their data.

I’m sensitive to privacy concerns, and indeed believe there should be far less (or no) mandatory collection of data upon domain name registration, but I also favor equal access to what data is collected. I’m also an ALAC liaison to the task force, so I’m looking for other thoughts on the subject. Please leave comments or email.

By Wendy Seltzer, Law professor

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Tom Cleary  –  Jan 7, 2004 4:54 AM

My .02AUD would be:

At present, many Organisations don’t actually NEED an Admin. Contact, because the first contact they receive has an implied “go and get this translated by the Technical contact” invisibly attached.

I look after DNS resources for a number of Govt. departments and I have to use whois heavily to find answers to various needs from spam tracking and resolving PTR typos to generating reports on IP address usage.

As a “third party” and as a Technician, I think closing 43 can only make life harder for the exact people who can most be trusted ( after all, who is it that keeps the data valid? :-)

Come on, guys, this is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Penalising me because some Marketers have started misusing things is the same argument as denying me email because of spam.

Find something better!

Alfred  –  Jan 19, 2004 10:33 PM

Why not just remove the email addresses from the WHOIS data instead?

Then other relevant but spam-proof data can still be used, such as domain name status, nameservers, expiry date, company address, and so on.

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