I wouldn’t care to get into the finer points of the arguments, as the parties involved have done so time and again without reaching an acceptable compromise or agreement.
Milton Mueller’s article, “Whois Privacy Stalemate .. Again”, which was published on the Internet Governance Project site earlier today covers the situation and the various points of view in some detail.
For those of you who want a bluffer’s guide the issues can be split into two broad camps.
On the one side you have individuals and groups who are concerned about privacy issues. Under the current system anyone with access to a computer can glean quite a bit of information regarding a domain holder (registrant) by simply checking the WHOIS output. (There are a multitude of online services that facilitate this).
On the other side of the fence sit law enforcement and IP protection lawyers who want to be able to track down criminals and wrongdoers quickly and easily. If, for example, a domain is being used to run a scam or a phishing attack you might be able to get the site taken offline quickly, but ultimately it would be preferable to trackdown the person or persons behind it (of course it’s unlikely that the information they provided to register the domain is accurate, but that’s a completely different argument.
The whois debate has also spilled over into the current discussions surrounding the registrar accreditation agreement which I mentioned recently. While whois output may not be central to the RAA the treatment of registrants is, so it’s only natural that there would be some discussion. Of course there is a fine line between useful discussion and distracting debate.
Is there a solution? One would hope so, but finding one that marries all parties’ concerns into an acceptable compromise solution is not going to be easy.