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ICANN Whois survey is biased – Froomkin

One-man watchdog emails us to disagree

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Michael Froomkin, professor of law at the University of Miami, founder of ICANN Watch and leading authority on ICANN, has been in touch to disagree with our piece on the organisation's new Whois review.

ICANN has published a survey asking anyone to give their views on the domain name address book. We concluded that the survey was surprisingly impartial, although the uses ICANN will no doubt put it to are not likely to be so.

Michael was having none of it. This is his assessment:

"You missed the boat on this:

This survey is very badly designed, and has several signs of bias. Here are just some examples:

Question 9 is a loaded question: the opposite of essential is not valueless but 'unnecessary'. In asking the question the way you do you leave no space for those who believe information may have 'value' but still not be appropriate to be published. Almost any information has value. The question is whether the value exceeds the privacy cost. This entire survey is designed to minimise the chances that this view could be expressed. Who is going to say that the name of the registrant is 'valueless' - that does not mean, however, that it is either 'essential' or 'desirable'. This is, I repeat, a very biased an inappropriate question.

Question 5 leaves out the possibility that what one wants is a technical contact to reach about problems e.g. spam, rather than the spammer. The entire survey minimises the use of 'whois' for IP numbers, focussing on domain names.

Question 17 gives multiple choice options for the status quo, and the extension of the status quo, but not for the obvious choice of *increasing* privacy. That requires survey respondents to type text of
their own in a box. Again, the bias is against making it easy for people to express pro-privacy views - yet it could hardly be a surprise that this is the main issue with the bulk access provisions of the contract.

Question 19 does not say whether the option of third-party registration would (a) be costly and (b) without prejudice to any legal rights. More importantly, the survey fails to ask if people want an 'unlisted' registration (disclose but don't publish) as exists for telephone registrations in many countries."

So there you have it. ®

Related Links

The ICANN Whois survey
ICANN Watch

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