US government writes to ICANN on WHOIS policy of major registrar

In a letter sent to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the US government – through the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information – expressed concerns over the new WHOIS policy implemented by GoDaddy, a major registrar of domain names. In March 2018, GoDaddy introduced several changes to its WHOIS policy (governing access to domain name registrants data), by masking some WHOIS domain name registrant data – name, e-mail, and phone number – when requested through Port43 Whois lookups. The letter sent to ICANN describes this change as a source of ‘great concern for NTIA [the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration] given the US Government’s interest in maintaining a WHOIS service that is quickly accessible for legitimate purposes’. NTIA asks ICANN to investigate the matter as it may conflict with the Registry Accreditation Agreement, but also to ‘consider an ICANN cross-community discussion on the issue’. In a statement to Domain Name Wire, GoDaddy explained that its decision was made in an attempt to ‘protect customer data from harvesting by bad actors’, while also noting that the concerned data is still available via protected web-based queries.