The Nov. 21 editorial "Internet at Risk" properly advocated continued U.S. control over the Internet domain name system. However, the United States also needs to address a serious problem: the inaccuracy of Web site domain name registrations.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), under contract with the Commerce Department, is responsible for registering domain names. The corporation requires domain name registrars to collect and maintain the "Whois" database with the names and contact information for Web site operators. This database is an essential tool for law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and our counterparts around the world, which pursue enforcement actions against spammers, senders of spyware, identity thieves and other Internet malefactors.
Too often, however, Whois data are incomplete or inaccurate. FTC staffers have turned up numerous domain names with false contact information, including Web sites registered to God, Bill Clinton and Mickey Mouse.
We need to preserve some Internet anonymity and privacy, for example, in the case of a political dissident. These concerns, however, are considerably lessened with respect to commercial registrants. We can ensure privacy, anonymity and free expression for anyone who registers a Web site while still ensuring the accuracy of registration information.
ICANN can and should do more to ensure that law enforcement agencies are able to identify commercial Web site operators engaged in fraud or other illegal activities. With its contract up for renewal in 2006, ICANN must be held accountable for the soundness of Whois data.
Federal Trade Commission
The views expressed here are those of the writer and not the FTC or any other individual commissioner.