Opposition in the US to a privatised ICANN
A number of large US consumer protection organisations and trade associations have expressed clear opposition to the US government relinquishing its unilateral role in overseeing the domain name system (DNS). In their written comments in advance of hearings on the future of the private Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), the US Consumers Union and trade associations such as the Information Technology Industry Council and the International Trademark Association have expressed their opposition to the US government allowing their contract with ICANN, which runs until September 2009, to simply expire, thereby transforming ICANN into a purely private organisation.
Consumer protection organisations are warning that users are still substantially under-represented in the tangle of ICANN committees. Rather than the complicated structure of having five 'Regional At Large Organisations' (RALO) which merely send observers to the board, the Consumers Union wants consumers to be able to directly elect directors to the board. ICANN abolished the election of board members by end users, as provided for in ICANN's articles of association, after an initial round of elections which resulted in the election of Chaos Computer Club activist Andy Müller-Maguhn for Europe.
The trade associations are concerned that without supervision by the US Department of Commerce there will no longer be a powerful complaints authority. The associations clearly do not consider either existing ICANN procedures for resolving disputes or suits filed in US courts to be adequate. The International Trademark Association complains of what it sees as slack treatment in the case of missing whois information – personal data in publicly accessible registry and registrar databases. ICANN is, in its opinion, already too lax with registrars which infringe whois regulations or regulations concerning mediation proceedings against potential domain squatters. US company Markmonitor even argues that the growing number of phishing cases argues against releasing ICANN from US government oversight.
There were also warnings against ICANN oversight being entrusted to other governments or the community of nations - along the lines of, if there has to be governmental oversight, then preferably by our government. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Department of Commerce organisation responsible, will hold public consultations on 28th February.