Three-Quarters of Whois Data Inaccurate Finds ICANN Study

More than three-quarters (77%) of all Whois records for five of the generic Top Level Domains (.COM, .ORG, .NET, .INFO and .BIZ) are filled with at least partially inaccurate information, according to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) for ICANN.

And while only 23 per cent of Whois data provided for domain name registration was fully accurate, around twice as many (46%) met a slightly relaxed version of the criteria tested meaning that successful contact could be made with the registrant.

However most of the errors in contact details could be put down to two barriers, the study found. These being concerns regarding privacy and “carelessness, and/or little perceived value in domain ownership”. And 20 per cent of respondents “were completely unaware of Whois, and consequently have limited understanding of the information requirements.”

There were also issues with translation as only in late-2009 were changes introduced to allow non-ASCII characters meaning registrants from a country such as China may have difficulty in understanding the Whois requirements.

Concerns of identity theft did not come about as no respondents to the survey noted this as an issue. However as is noted, there is no need to steal one’s identity as it is too easy to include false or misleading Whois information.

The report notes in its conclusion that issues relating to barriers to accuracy can be addressed by the internet community. These issues include privacy, confusion about information needed, lack of clarity in the level of information required, no requirement for proof of address and Whois structure.

However the cost of ensuring accuracy will rise as the level of accuracy for registration details rises, leading to increased fees.

ICANN is now seeking public comment on the report, with community members invited to review the draft report and its findings and comment on all aspects of the report. Comments close on 15 April 2010.

Kieren McCarthy, formerly of ICANN, has also written in The Register on the report. His report is available at

The full report and further information is available from