INTA’s Quest for an Open WHO IS Database System in the Face of GDPR

INTA's Quest for an Open WHOIS Database System in the Face of GDPR

Since the May 2018 implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the group known as INTA has been focusing efforts on restoring an open WHO IS registrant data directory. The International Trademark Association (INTA) is a global, non-profit advocacy group that supports trademarks and intellectual property with the intent of protecting consumers. INTA’s WHO IS database system needs to include the availability of open WHOIS directory data by members to do business and fight many forms of online trademark abuse like counterfeiting, fraud, phishing, and more.

The group saw the challenges the new EU law would pose before it went into effect. The changes brought about by GDPR to protect the data of EU citizens meant that much of the information that appeared before GDPR in the public WHO IS database would be unavailable once the law went into effect. While the group states that it absolutely understands the value of safeguarding personal privacy, it maintains that the availability of the information was vital in their quest and that of other similar groups, to prevent consumer abuse and fraud and helps maintain a reliable, secure domain name system.

Stepping Up Their Efforts

Recognizing that a balance is needed, INTA, which has always supported an accessible, accurate, and open WHO IS system, is stepping up their efforts to help guide trademark professionals through the recent changes. INTA’s WHO IS database system needsto include information that was once publicly available in the WHO IS system and of vital importance in their efforts. The changes, however, greatly limit access to that information needed.

The International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) put into place changes to meet the rules required by GDPR. ICANN, the WHO IS system’s governing body, approved a Temporary Specification for gTLD Registration Data in May 2018, only days before GDPR took effect.

The Temporary Specifications greatly limit the amount of information that’s publicly available, only giving an anonymous email address or generic web form as a way to forward email requests as opposed to a live contact.

Not Enough

INTA finds the information publicly available under the Temporary Specification to be insufficient for the needs of those they serve and to maintain a reliable, secure domain name system. INTA’s Senior Director for Internet Policy, Lori Schulman says, “INTA’s goal is to get the right information to the right people for the right reasons, and has historically supported an accessible, contactable, and accurate WHO IS system. With criminal online counter feiting activity growing exponentially, we hope for a timely resolution that will allow access to information with respect to the privacy rules set by the GDPR.”

Members of INTA use domain name ownership information from the WHOIS database to find and contact registrants of malevolent websites that steal personal data, spread malware, perpetuate fraud or any illegal activity with the unauthorized use of licensed brand names. They fight daily against counterfeiters for the protection of consumers every where.

The Struggle Continues

Many consumer advocates, like INTA, along with law enforcement agencies are trying to adapt to the new “normal”, but they aren’t giving up the battle. INTA’s actions towards GDPR include the publishing of WHO IS Challenges: A Tool kit for Intellectual Property Professionals as a way of helping guide advocacy members in the new era of online enforcement under the ICANN Temporary specification.

INTA’s actions towards GDPR also include actively encouraging members to share their personal stories of what impact the changes have had on them and to report difficulties in acquiring registrant information from various registrars using a dedicated email address. Reports are anonymous with the information being used for the education of INTA advocacy positions as efforts continue.