The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has officially launched the Registration Data Request Service (RDRS), allowing individuals to approach registrars directly to request domain registration information. The innovative system acts as a prototype for managing inquiries regarding access to nonpublic registration data linked to generic top-level domains (gTLDs). It serves as a liaison, connecting individuals seeking this information with ICANN-accredited registrars who participate in the program.

The crucial importance of domain ownership visibility

In the digital world, the transparency of domain ownership, facilitated by WHOIS data, stands as a critical element. WHOIS, which isn’t an acronym but signifies “Who is responsible for this domain name?”, serves as a repository of public information encompassing domain ownership, contact data, and registration dates. This serves a vital purpose in identifying domain owners and establishing connections with them. 

For brand owners, policing the misuse of trademarks online is a crucial responsibility. The integrity of their goodwill and the protection of customers are paramount. WHOIS plays an important role in this arena by aiding in identifying and addressing suspect websites that mislead consumers about product origins or peddle counterfeits. It stands as a powerful tool in combating a spectrum of online abuses including IP infringement, phishing, impersonation, and counterfeiting.

The impact of losing WHOIS

WHOIS has been an indispensable tool in the battle against online crime since the inception of the domain name system in the 1980s. However, access to this valuable public data has been restricted, facing persistent challenges. The enactment of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 rendered most WHOIS data non-public, concealing vital registrant information such as names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers.

The move towards an inaccessible WHOIS database, while well-intentioned, has brought unintended consequences—eliminating a valuable investigative tool. Following the implementation of GDPR, concerns were raised about the repercussions for WHOIS. As anticipated, the lack of WHOIS availability has contributed to an increase in DNS abuse. In 2022, the Anti-Phishing Working Group reported a staggering surge in phishing attacks, surpassing 4.7 million incidents, marking a 150% annual increase since 2019—an alarming and urgent threat.

A new dawn: Registration Data Request Service (RDRS)

After years of community efforts, ICANN has officially today started a system for data disclosure termed the Registration Data Request Service (RDRS). Under this system, registrars can voluntarily participate in receiving requests for WHOIS disclosure through a centralized ticketing system. Participation remains at the discretion of registrars, allowing them to decide on disclosing redacted WHOIS information for specific domains.

The operational mechanism of RDRS

The RDRS bridges requestors seeking non-public registration data with relevant ICANN-accredited registrars for gTLDs. The requestor navigates the RDRS page, logs into their ICANN account, and submits a request for a specific domain. The request is then channeled to the relevant registrar for processing, with registrars viewing data disclosure requests in a list format.

WHOIS data offers valuable insights enabling brand owners to safeguard intellectual property, monitor domain registrations, enforce trademarks, and fortify their online brand presence. Effectively leveraging this data empowers brand owners to proactively protect their reputation and interests.

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