Bill Hartzer

High Profile Domain Names Suspended Due to Invalid WHOIS Data

When Nikki Craft woke up one morning recently and checked her websites, they were not working. In fact, all 20 of her high-traffic websites were down. After further investigation into the issue, she learned that the domain names had been suspended by the registrar due to invalid WHOIS data on the domain name WHOIS record–here web server was not down. Ms. Craft is among many domain name owners whose domain names have been suspended due to invalid WHOIS data.

I recently spoke with Statton Hammock, Senior Director, Law, Policy & Business Affairs, of Network Solutions, about invalid WHOIS data and how Network Solutions deals with invalid WHOIS on domain names. asked Mr. Hammock if Network Solutions has you ever suspended or deleted a domain name due to invalid WHOIS information on a customer’s domain. Here is what Network Solutions said:

Yes. Network Solutions investigates all allegations of invalid WHOIS information on domains under our management, and has suspended names when the registrant fails to respond to notices that they are in violation of contractual obligations.

I then asked Network Solutions if they have ever suspended or deleted a domain name due to an email address listed in the WHOIS bouncing or being invalid? Even though the other information on the WHOIS is correct?

Mr. Hammock commented, “If we receive a complaint that a domain’s listed email address is invalid and the customer does not respond to our requests via other channels to correct the data, the name will be suspended. Once inactive, the customer very often contacts our customer service department, corrects the inaccurate information, and the domain name is restored.”

According to Network Solutions, they “believe that some exaggerate the magnitude of the invalid WHOIS data issue. ICANN’s own research has shown that approximately 80% of the registrants studied were located or accurately provided deliverable addresses. In fact, we support the positions articulated by the Registrar Stakeholder Group’s public comments on ICANN’s Draft Report on WHOIS Accuracy (see http://forum.icann.org/lists/whois-accuracy-study/msg00019.html).

Network Solutions also told me that “Network Solutions supports the Registrar Stakeholder Group’s positions articulated in public comments on ICANN’s Draft Report on WHOIS Accuracy, including that “ICANN focus its resources on improving and publicizing awareness of the WDPRS [WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System] rather than commissioning expensive research into further WHOIS accuracy studies which lead to unrealistic and cost prohibitive conclusions.””.

Godaddy also had some comments about about invalid WHOIS . I spoke with Camille Ede, Go Daddy Director of Domain Services. According to Ms. Ede, “When Go Daddy receives a complaint of invalid WHOIS information, we launch an investigation. If we find the WHOIS information to be invalid, we contact the customer and ask him or her to update the information. If the information is not updated within 8 days, Go Daddy places the domain name on “Registrar Hold” (which suspends the domain name). If this happens, a reminder goes out to the customer to update his or her information. On the 15th day, if the information is still not updated, Go Daddy sends another reminder to the customer. The domain name then remains suspended until the customer makes the update.”

Camille also went on to say that “Per ICANN rules, the email address listed in the WHOIS information is required to be valid. Therefore, if the email address is invalid Go Daddy would take steps to suspend the domain name. However, if the email bounced due to a storage issue, then Go Daddy would take additional steps to validate the information before taking any action.”

I specifically asked Camille Ede whether Godaddy considers invalid WHOIS data to be a common problem or is it fairly minor at this point. She said, “Yes, invalid WHOIS data does appear to be a common problem. Go Daddy has a dedicated, 24/7 staff who deal specifically with these types of complaints in order to ensure that our customers are compliant with ICANN requirements.” She also went on to say that “All registrars should follow ICANN’s policy and actively investigate all invalid WHOIS complaints.”

So, at this point, I do believe that invalid WHOIS complaints are still an issue that needs to be addressed. Many domain owners do not take this issue seriously enough and realize that it is very important to keep your WHOIS data up to date: it must be accurate or you risk losing your domain names. In the case of Nikki Craft, it appears that the WHOIS data that was not accurate was an email address. Upon notification that this was the case, Ms. Craft told me that she corrected the issue and provided an up-to-date email address. But the registrar, Gandi.net, took their time to correct the issue; just before the 15th day they released the domain names back to Ms. Craft, who was able to then move the domains to another registrar.

If you have not done so recently, take a look at your domain names’ WHOIS record. Make sure the data is accurate. If it’s not, then correct it. Trust me, it is not worth the hassle to lose your domain names because of invalid WHOIS data. Just ask Nikki Craft.

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