Researchers at IGP have prepared a comprehensive timeline of the Whois service and the controversy over Whois and privacy, with links to relevant documents. The timeline was prepared by Dr. Milton Mueller and doctoral student Mawaki Chango as part of their draft paper for the annual Telecommunication Policy Research Conference at the end of September. Comments or suggested additions of important missing elements to the timeline are welcomed; use the reply function on the blog.

Noting the conflict between the global Whois service and data protection laws, the paper attempts to explain how a global governance regime can remain impervious to territorial laws and well-established international norms, despite the absence of any formal treaty or agreement by sovereign nations whose data protection guarantees have been compromised. In making this explanation the paper draws upon the concept of a “default value.” Whois originated as a feature of the Internet when it was a small-scale, closed scientific network. Once the Internet evolved into a large-scale, public, commercial system, the Whois capability remained in place by default. The presence of an open Whois directory was then exploited by interest groups with the most to gain from a global identification capability.