House Resolution demands open access to WHOIS Results

Representative Bob Latta (R-OH) has introduced HR875, a resolution aimed at safeguarding access to WHOIS information for law enforcement and the public. HR875 states that “domain name registration information, referred to as ‘WHOIS’ information, is critical to the protection of the United States national and economic security, intellectual property rights enforcement, cybersecurity, as well as the health, safety, and privacy of its citizens, and should remain readily accessible.”

WHOIS data is searchable registrar information available for all websites on the Internet. It has long been used to trace criminal websites that host counterfeit and illicit drug sales, human trafficking, child pornography, and illicit and copyrighted content, as well as the websites of spammers, denial-of-services and phishing attackers, and other fraudsters.  In 2018, Internet security expert Brian Krebs described WHOIS as “probably the single most useful tool we have right now for tracking down cybercrooks and/or for disrupting their operations.”

Rep. Latta’s action came in response to joint letters to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate signed by 40 organizations calling on Congress to act. The February 27 letter states “We the undersigned organizations write in support of the vital role that WHOIS domain name registration data play in protecting consumers and businesses from criminal networks and its role in cyber security and cyber investigations. While the value of WHOIS data is widely known throughout the cyber security industry, its day-to-day use is less known elsewhere. We are gravely concerned about the overly broad interpretation and damaging implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation that has effectively blocked access to this critical data set.” The joint letter shares that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) described WHOIS as “a critical tool” for law enforcement.

The letter was signed by the Partnership for Safe Medicines, along with The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, the American Pharmacists Association, the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime, Coalition for a Secure and Transparent Internet, Legitscript, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, and dozens of other WHOIS stakeholder groups.