Over the past few years, online privacy has become increasingly more contentious, and that came to a head this past May when the European Union introduced new General Data Protection Regulation legislation. This wasn’t something that came as too much of a surprise, and the majority of companies had ample time to adjust to the new legislation. However, one prominent company that’s been facing issues with the laws has been the WHOIS domain name database. Over the past two decades, the database has regularly published the name, address, email and telephone number of every domain name registrant.
This is something that has been a bone of contention for years, and was something that the GDPR legislation was set to address. Because of this, WHOIS and the United States-based ICANN began trying to avoid in the weeks leading up to when the GDPR legislation was set to go into effect. These efforts have been something that both groups have been incredibly focused on, as the legislation means that the domain name database may find itself on the wrong side of the law. Because of this, many speculators feared that it would be shut down once the legislation was enacted to avoid any potential legal repercussions.
According to many reports, this would have proved disastrous for many people who rely on the data that the database provides; some of the more notable of the groups concerned were the likes of law enforcement and intellectual property lawyers. This is chiefly because it may have meant that these figures wouldn’t be able to effectively do their jobs when it came to certain crimes; as a result, they feared that this would give cybercriminals quite a large window to carry out a variety of different cybercrimes. With that in mind, the ICANN held a series of meetings with the Governmental Advisory Committee, who were responsible for enacting and overseeing the law.
On top of this, they also provided a number of proposals on how the WHOIS domain name database could become GDPR-friendly. However, many of these meetings and proposals were met with quite a significant amount of failure. As such, there were quite a notable series of meetings and proposals to try rectify the situation before it became a problem. Perhaps one of the more substantial of these proposals was made only a few short weeks before the legislation was set to be enacted. The proposal would essentially allow a few select groups to have unprecedented access to the database, with some examples including the likes of authorities, attorneys and a few others.
However, this proposal was flatly rejected for one key reason; in the proposal, the ICANN wanted the Governmental Advisory Committee to design and implement the processes and features needed to accomplish this. This decision meant that ICANN and the WHOIS domain database were left with very few options when it came to preparing for the legislation to be enacted, and even less time to implement them. While it looks as though progress has been made since then, it still looks as though it’s a contentious issue.