I will be attending the upcoming ICANN meeting in Kobe, Japan next week, As ever it’ll be a very busy meeting with a packed schedule, however there are probably one or two topics that are of more importance to us and our clients than others.

As some of you may know I am a regular attendee to ICANN meetings and am currently one of the three elected representatives of the Registrar Stakeholder Group to one of ICANN’s councils. That might sound a bit like some kind of secret sect, but ICANN is anything but secretive (mostly) with all its meetings and mailing list discussions publicly archived.

So what are people all excited about this time round?

I’d love to be talking about something new and innovative. I’d love to say that I was going to be spending a week discussing new Internet technologies that would change the world. But the sad reality is that yet again the ICANN meeting will most likely be dominated by a single topic:

WHOIS

Now if you want to peruse this blog’s archives you’ll find that pretty much every ICANN meeting I’ve done a preview for over the last few years has been dominated by the topic of whois in some shape or form.

But before I get into the details of this upcoming meeting let’s do a very quick recap.

Prior to May of last year when GDPR came into force the “default” for whois records was to be public and if you wanted to protect your personal details you needed to either use a proxy / privacy service or choose a domain extension that operated under a stricter privacy regime. With the advent of GDPR enforcement ICANN finally bit the bullet and came up with a so called “temporary specification” which gave registrars and registries the ability to operate their services in a more GDPR-compliant fashion. I’ve written about this in more detail previously.

However the temporary specification is just that – temporary. It had to be replaced with a permanent set of policies that would be compliant with GDPR. Ideally they’d also be robust enough to withstand scrutiny by the European Data Protection Board and thus registrars, like us, could sleep soundly at night knowing that our business practices were compliant.

So for the last few months there’s been a group of volunteers from across the ICANN community working on reviewing the temporary policies and trying to come up with the necessary changes to “fix” the issues.

With me so far?

The group’s final set of recommendations were approved by the GNSO Council, on which I sit, at a special meeting yesterday, so in theory everything is moving along swimmingly. Unfortunately, however, there are two issues:

  1. Some people aren’t happy with the recommendations, as they didn’t get what they wanted.
  2. The group’s project plan came in two phases. Phase one is complete, but phase two will need to be kicked off. It’s that second phase that could be even more contentious than the first, as it’s all about “access” to data.

So what does that mean for the upcoming ICANN meeting in Kobe?

There’s going to be a lot of lobbying from some groups to push for their “asks” I suspect. There’ll also be a lot of time spent discussing what to do with the current set of recommendations, how to implement them and how quickly the second phase can both start and finish.

There are, naturally, other topics on the schedule for the week, such as:

  • new TLDs – there’s been ongoing work on reviewing the last release of domain extensions with a view to allowing organisations to apply for their own domain extensions in the future
  • reviewing rights protection mechanisms, which would involve making changes to how trademark and other rights holders get to assert their rights via UDRP and URS. Those rights aren’t absolute, so there’s tensions between the rights holders and others.
  • DNS abuse – always an interesting topic.

But it’s pretty safe to assume that the work around whois will take up a lot of time and energy both in the sessions as well as in the hallways and side conversations.

My own schedule is going to be mostly focussed around the activities of the GNSO Council, which will be meeting several times during the week.

It’ll be a busy week, but hopefully somewhat productive. I know, at least, it won’t be boring!