So during ICANN 58 in Copenhagen, it became crystal clear, the WHOIS is a “nice to have” but not a “must have” for sure.
Sure there are folks that did not see the mushroom cloud, nor did they hear the thunder of the nuclear explosion, and being in denial is an option, but if you are hit with the radiation and fallout, denial is not a good option.
What is the WHOIS and what are Registrars doing? If you register a domain name say: yourname.biz, then Registrars register the domain name for you and the Registry for .biz publishes your personal information in a public directory/database; we call the WHOIS.
This was handy back in 1990 or so. Now the EU GDPR is coming in May 2018 and enforcement is most likely to happen (read huge fines). ICANN managed to ignore the problem and wanted to ignore the privacy problems even longer, but after ICANN 58 this is no longer an option.
The EU GDPR is global, every Registrar and Registry on this world who deals with European citizens have to comply with the EU GDPR. This makes the solution problematic.
In my opinion, there is only one solution. Shutdown all WHOIS servers and replace it with RDAP. In addition to this, storing personal info at the Registry to register a domain name should be not required, it serves no purpose.
RDAP will have two functions. It will serve as an internal network to make sure existing ICANN policies will remain to function, though policies like IRTP A-D and much more will need to re-written or scrapped.
The public output for RDAP should be very minimal; this is function two. The output will contain the Registry, Registrar, Reseller (if applicable), email alias of the Registrant and the name servers. The rest should be removed as there is no purpose.
As simple as this sounds, it requires a lot of work and there will be moments when things will be in freefall, and we need to adjust procedures on the fly.
Registrars if applicable by law should display the Registrant in full when it is a company. The EU privacy is pretty clear about that.
All in all, this requires some out of the box thinking, but we should stop thinking regarding thin or thick, we must be aware on what we collect data wise and careful what we publish publicly and keep asking what the purpose is.
The current setup will create a huge problem when it comes to abuse. Not only will LEA’s be frustrated, but it will also create tons of overhead on the Registrar side and as such cost money and worse, abuse levels might even skyrocket.
RDAP allows for gated access. LEA’s must get access through a global framework to combat abuse. This also extends to these companies who are not LEA’s but fight spam and other nasty things that happen on the internet. This will require some heavy consulting with the EU Data Commissioners to set up a framework that has a purpose. I think this is doable, though it will require heavy monitoring when it comes to access to justify such access. Given the current levels of abuse, again I think it is warranted, not to mention the extremely short timeframe we have to get EU GDPR compliant.
Will this work? Most likely not. ICANN is a bottom-up driven community and not top down organized. Before we have everyone on board, we are most likely two years further in the process.
The alternative and there is no alternative, privacy is a right, it cannot cost money, it is not a service, as such I expect most Registrars will start offering privacy protect for free, send out a mailing informing everyone, they have done their duty. This will be a colossal mess and I am not sure how we should deal with domain transfers, this issue does not exist with most ccTLD’s as they have a more clean transfer process that does not rely on a system created by ancient Egyptians.
This article is work in progress. Updated version at https://dataprotection.industries/index.php/2017/10/13/the-end-of-whois-where-are-we-at/