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FTC Issues Statement on Whois Databases

A recent statement released by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission emphasized that the Whois databases should be kept "open, transparent, and accessible," allowing agencies like the FTC to protect consumers and consumers to protect themselves:

Commissioner Jon Leibowitz told the group that FTC attorneys and investigators have used the Whois databases for 10 years to conduct investigations of Internet scams. "Whois databases often are one of the first tools FTC investigators use to identify wrongdoers," he said. In one case, the agency alleged scammers were using drive-by downloads to install spyware that barraged consumers with pop-up ads and caused some computers to crash. "Using Whois data, the FTC found the defendants, stopped their illegal conduct, and obtained a judgment for millions of dollars in consumer redress. It is uncertain whether the FTC would have been able to locate the defendants without the Whois data," Leibowitz said.

...

"In short, if ICANN restricts the use of Whois data to technical purposes only, it will greatly impair the FTC's ability to identify Internet malefactors quickly — and ultimately stop perpetrators of fraud, spam, and spyware from infecting consumers' computers," the statement states.

The statement notes that consumers also benefit from access to Whois data and cites an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development policy paper that states that "easy identification of online businesses is a key element for building consumer trust in the electronic marketplace. This OECD paper represents an international consensus about the importance of Whois data for consumers," it states.

"There are other businesses, financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, and intellectual property rights owners, all of which heavily rely on access to accurate Whois data," it states.

The complete FTC statement is available here.

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