US and EU clash over Whois data

U.S. Federal Trade Commission wants more data stored by Whois

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consumer protection czar on Wednesday welcomed moves by ICANN to store more data on those who run websites.

David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, made the comments in Brussels where he was attending a meeting with European officials to discuss the reform of the European Union's data protection framework.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which is responsible for managing the Whois database, a list of who has registered domain names on the Internet, recently revealed plans to store more data and to force registrars to re-verify domain registrant contact information every year as well as retaining customer data for two years after registration ends.

The proposals prompted a strongly negative reaction from the E.U.'s data protection watchdog, the Article 29 Working Group (A29WG), which wrote to ICANN saying that the plans run contrary to E.U. citizens' right to privacy.

The Whois database was originally intended to provide contact points for technical queries, but has become a tool of law enforcement agencies. "The inability to get accurate information about who is sponsoring a site can greatly hinder investigations," Vladeck said. "The Internet shouldn't be a safe haven for crooks. We are also very worried about the auction of High Level Domains."

A29WG is worried that publicly available contact details could be harvested and used for spamming. The plans would also require registrars to keep phone, email, skype and other contact details as well as credit card information.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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