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Domain name contact information and the right to anonymity

February 2006

The conflict between the open Internet the one we all love for its small users and free speech and the commercial Internet with high barriers to entry continues. The conflicts back this week in ICANN, which came into being in the midst of the conflict and has been subject to its vicissitudes for over seven years.

A long-standing debate over the use of WHOIS data is coming to a head. It seems like a small, fussy issue, but its significant. If you want your own domain name, you have to provide contact information. This information, called the WHOIS database, is currently open to the whole world. ICANN realizes it has to be more private, but has been struggling with how many safeguards to put around it.

As an open medium, the Internet offers free expression to everyone and everyone includes those who must remain anonymous for any reason. Were getting used to thinking of the Internet as a medium that gives users unprecedented opportunities to spill the beans about themselves: the results can be seen all over the popular social networking and photo sites.










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