ICANN – Looking ahead: Challenges and opportunities

19 Dec 2017 16:15h - 17:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a not-for profit organisation that promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers (domain names and Internet Protocol (IP)) addresses.

Mr Chris Disspain, Vice-Chair of the ICANN Board of Directors, who mentioned that the session would be open and interactive, and would also answer questions related to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), moderated the session.

In his opening remarks, Mr Cherine Chalaby, Chair of the ICANN Board of Directors, informed members that the 2017 IGF was his first in his new capacity as board chair. He mentioned that ICANN is interested in and has been participating in the IGF at national, regional and global levels because issues being discussed, such as privacy, cybersecurity, and intellectual property, have an impact on ICANN’s mandate. He concluded that ICANN has a technical mandate, and to reach someone on the Internet, names or a numbers (IP address) are used.

Mr Göran Marby, President and CEO of ICANN, mentioned that ICANN has a peculiar and specific way of handling issues related to the Domain Name System (DNS). He reminded participants the ICANN is not the Internet, but interconnectivity of devices makes the Internet. 3.5 to 4 billion have access to Internet systems and do many things on the Internet.

On the question of who holds power in ICANN, Chalaby responded that ICANN has a model of governance that is unique – the multistakeholder model – which is also used at the IGF, where different stakeholders create policies, which are sent to the board for review and approval. Policies originate in ICANN’s Supporting Organisations (Sos), and comments are sought from Advisory Committees (ACs). Chalaby added that the new ICANN by-laws after the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) transition, gave power to the community, including the power to remove a board member who makes decisions that are not consistent with ICANN’s mission.

On whether ICANN is following discussions on new technologies and identifiers such as blockchain and Radio-frequency identification (RFID), Chalaby confirmed in the affirmative, mentioning that a new committee on the board had been created to keep track of technologies. Marby added that if someone comes up with a better solution, ICANN is open to making changes.

Ms Beckwith Burr, ICANN Board of Directors, talked about the GDPR which was designed to harmonise data privacy laws across Europe and comes into effect in May 2018. She informed participants that what is new in the regulation are small but significant changes, such as the ability to rely on consent to process data; but ICANN is getting ready for the GDPR. The goal is for ICANN to come into compliance with the GDPR, while respecting policy development processes to the maximum extent possible.

Marby added that this is the first time that legislation directly impacts the policy making process of ICANN. He confirmed that ICANN is emphasising and working on legal fine-tuning to be ready and compliant for the law. Marby mentioned that ICANN had received several models that are currently being evaluated. He also mentioned that 3 of the evaluated models have now been published for community comments. On the question of whether ICANN is expecting a waiver from the European Union, Marby responded in the negative.

On the possibility of WHOIS being separated from ICANN, Marby responded in the affirmative. Burr confirmed that the concept of the WHOIS service involves more processing of personal data, and registrars may not accept handing out data to third parties. Disspain also added that a lot of work was happening within ICANN in that regard.

When requested to give assurances to registrars and registries about support from ICANN, Burr responded that registries and registrars have to ensure that they are compliant. Marby responded to a question about teaching students about the DNS, that it is important for people to understand how the Internet works. Burr added that many technology companies are already working on initiatives that support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Disspain added that if one learns about the DNS, they are also learning about ICANN and how it is run.

By Sarah Kiden