Incorrect Whois Data – GAO Reports to US Congress

I recently posted about the importance of maintaining accurate information in domain whois. Earlier today (yesterday if you want to be really pedantic) the GAO (US Government Accountability Office) released its report on INTERNET MANAGEMENT- Prevalence of False Contact Information for Registered Domain Names.

The reports introduction makes for interesting reading:
"Based on test results, GAO estimates that 2.31 million domain names (5.14 percent) have been registered with patently false data—data that appeared obviously and intentionally false without verification against any reference data—in one or more of the required contact information fields. GAO also found that 1.64 million (3.65 percent) have been registered with incomplete data in one or more of the required fields. In total, GAO estimates that 3.89 million domain names (8.65 percent) had at least one instance of patently false or incomplete data in the required Whois contact information fields."
It's interesting, but I doubt if it's anywhere close to accurate. I would have estimated that a significantly higher percentage of domains have false information, but it is very hard for anyone to verify this easily. Maybe an ISP really does own several thousand domains.. as many as the number of domains it holds on its nameservers.. ?
Of course the methodology used was a bit "lazy":
"We assessed the contact information for each domain name in our random samples to identify data that are incomplete or patently false—data that appeared obviously and intentionally false without verification against any reference data, such as “(999) 999-9999” for a telephone number, “asdasdasd” for a street address, or “XXXXX” for a postal code."
So you could easily circumvent it by either putting in invalid contact details that were valid in form.
It also does very little to combat the issue of ISPs and hosting companies using their own details on domain registrations - an issue that is very serious with some of the Irish companies.
The report also reveals more of the relationship between the US government and ICANN:
"In a September 2003 amendment to its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with ICANN, Commerce required ICANN to continue assessing the operation of the Whois service and to implement measures to secure improved accuracy of Whois data."
Which goes to show the level of influence that they hold over them.
Unfortunately this influence is not set to change in the near future.

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2 Responses to Incorrect Whois Data – GAO Reports to US Congress

  1. Lydia Shelley June 16, 2007 at 3:55 pm #

    I found your article by searching for a way to correct the whois database information when it is incorrect. There is a domain name which was given to me, that I felt was useless, so I did not renew it… so it is no longer under my control, but the whois db still says I am. I’ll keep searching, but if you can tell me how to fix it, I’d be much obliged.

  2. michele June 16, 2007 at 4:24 pm #

    If your contact details are listed in the whois for a domain you should be able to get the ICANN registrar to update it for you.

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