ICANN’s Expedited Policy Development Process (EPDP) team has issued their Phase 1 Final Report, marking the end of this stage of the project. The recommendations from this Report will become mandatory as of February 29, 2020, but contracted parties (registrars and registries) are permitted to implement them sooner. We’re still determining what specific changes we’ll need to make, but here’s an overview of the expected operational impacts that you should be aware of.

Changes to which data elements are required for ICANN-regulated TLDs

The EPDP team has recommended that:

  • the Admin contact no longer be used at all
  • the Tech contact be entirely optional and minimized: only name, phone number, and email address.

Needless to say, we are pleased with this outcome. For months now, Tucows has argued against the continued mandatory collection of Admin and Tech contact data, as it violates the GDPR’s requirement for data minimization. We still allow our reseller partners to pass along these data sets, but we only use them if the registry specifically requires them; if they do not, we simply hold these data on our platform and do not share them with the registry or data escrow provider.

How is OpenSRS handling this change?

OpenSRS will need to delete the Admin contacts we hold for existing domains unless it’s used for a TLD where the registry contractually requires an Admin contact. Before we delete any data, however, we’ll make sure that the registries have made the required changes on their side. This will ensure that no registrations fail at the registry level due to “missing data.” An additional point to consider is that some domains registered under the 2009 RAA rules do not have any associated Registrant contact info, because at the time the domain ownership information was stored in the Admin contact fields. We’ll ensure that the domain owner information is up to date before removing any of the Admin contact data.

What should resellers do?

We’re doing our best to minimize any work these changes could create for resellers. Right now, our suggestion is to audit which fields you currently list as mandatory in any signup and domain update forms that you provide to your customer base. You may need to make some adjustments and be ready to implement them once the recommendations outlined above are officially required. We’ll provide plenty of notice before implementing changes on our end.  

Changes to which data are displayed in the public Whois

The public Whois record will continue to be mostly redacted. However, the EPDP has recommended that registrars display the registrant state and country fields. We’ll soon begin work to reflect this change in the Whois data output for all domains under our accreditation.

Special case: publishing registrant organization Whois data

In theory, the Organization field holds non-personal data, so displaying it in the public Whois should not be an issue. In reality, however, the Organization field frequently does contain personal data. For this reason, the EPDP team has recommended that the Organization field should be published, but only in a way that avoids the accidental exposure of personal data.

So, how will this be accomplished?

Registrars have been asked to contact all existing domain owners to confirm whether or not they want their Organization info published. If the registrant opts in, the registrar can then publish the Organization data. If the registrant does not opt into a publication or does not respond at all, the data in the Organization field can either be kept on file with the registrar but redacted from the public Whois or deleted entirely.

What should resellers do?

For the long-term, the EPDP team recommends a more proactive approach where a “disclosure, disclaimer or confirmation” is presented to domain owners as they enter data into the Organization field. This notice would explain both options and give the registrant the opportunity to decide if they want this information published or not. If you collect data through an online sign-up form, you may want to consider how to incorporate this notice. We’re considering how to best implement this recommendation in a way that will be clear to domain owners and represent a minimal workload for our resellers.

Changes to which domain name contact data are shared  

Much of the heavy lifting here has been done. As part of our initial GDPR implementation last year, we did a full audit of our TLD offerings to determine which data elements should be shared with the registry by default, as required under our contract with the registry, and which should only be shared if the domain owner gives their explicit consent to do so.

Over the next few months, we expect to receive updated contracts from all the ICANN-accredited registries we work with. Depending on what the various registry contracts include, we may make adjustments to our data processing framework. We could end up sharing more or lesser data by default for specific TLDs and may stop the collection of some “optional” data elements.

What should resellers do?

These adjustments will not create any work for you, the reseller, but you should be aware that some of the TLD-specific data sharing settings will be adjusted. You can always refer to Tucows’ Data Use Information page for details about the legal basis for processing the data we collect for any TLD.

Next steps

Hopefully, this review has left you with a good sense of what to expect over the coming months. We’ll have more updates as the EPDP team begins Phase 2 (Standard Access Model, formally referred to as the “Unified Access Model”) and works through the Implementation Review Team (IRT) process, which will turn these Phase 1 recommendation into actual policy.  

Much like we couldn’t wait for ICANN’s Temp Spec before starting our GDPR implementation work, we can’t wait to receive the final IRT output before we start work on our own implementation of the EPDP team’s Phase 1 recommendations. We’re working hard so we’re prepared well in advance of the February 29, 2020 deadline and will keep you in the loop as we solidify our plans.