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The Federal Trade Commission today told the U.S. House of Representatives that access to Whois databases – the directories that contain information about Web site operators – are "critical to the agency’s consumer protection mission, to other law enforcement agencies around the world, and to consumers.” In Commission testimony before the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit of the House Committee on Financial Services, Eileen Harrington, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, said improvements should be made to the current Whois database system and the databases should be “kept open, transparent, and accessible.”
The testimony notes that “because of concern about preserving access to Whois databases, the FTC attended the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, last month to highlight the importance of public access to Whois databases.” The FTC made three recommendations at that meeting:

  • ICANN’s advisory body, the Generic Names Supporting Organization, should reconsider and reverse its recommendation to limit Whois data available to the public.
  • ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee should continue its outreach with law enforcers to “to reinforce the serious law enforcement and consumer protection implications of losing access to Whois databases.”
  • ICANN should “consider additional measures to improve the accuracy and completeness of domain name registration information.”

Restricting the purpose of the Whois databases does not satisfy privacy, consumer, and law enforcement interests, according to the testimony. “Maintaining accessibility and enhancing the Whois databases would make great strides toward improving the safety and fulfilling the promise of the Internet.”

The testimony notes that the FTC has continued to recommend that Congress enact the US SAFE WEB Act, which has been passed by the Senate. “The Commission continues to recommend enactment of this legislation, which would give it additional tools to fight fraud.”

Access to the Whois database and passage of the US SAFE WEB Act taken together, “will help ensure that consumers are free from deceptive practices that undermine the promise of the Internet,” the testimony states.

The Commission vote to approve the testimony was 5-0.

Copies of the testimony are available from the FTC’s Web site at and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

(FTC File No. P03 5302)

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