.US registrants are currently barred from using privacy and proxy services. As opposed to using privacy protection services, registrants are asked to provide viable contact information — name, phone number, email address, and mailing address — to be listed in the public WHOIS database. This policy reflects the historic needs of law enforcement, rights holders, and others, for easily accessible and accurate contact information. However, the inability to use privacy and proxy services is a frequent complaint from registrants who desire to use these services to protect their online identity and from some registrars whose registrants may be deterred from choosing .US, due to the inability to choose to keep their contact information private. There is also concern that the inability to use privacy and proxy services may disproportionately affect certain categories of registrants, thereby inadvertently shifting the registrant composition of the usTLD.
As a result, the Stakeholder Council has been discussing whether or not the existing ban on privacy and proxy services remains appropriate for .US. The Council has been considering whether exceptions should be made for certain categories of users and/or specific types of registrations, or whether the ban should be lifted altogether. The Council met on August 17th to discuss the next steps for the policy. Prior to this meeting, the Secretariat drafted a paper to assist the discussion by providing a comprehensive explanation of the privacy and proxy service restriction, exploring the risks and benefits of privacy protection services, outlining the range of P/P service options for registrars, and outlining options that might foster productive growth within the usTLD. (This paper is posted online.)
During the August 17th meeting, after careful analysis and discussion, the Council decided to temporarily defer further action. The Council believed it wise to monitor the activities of the ICANN Privacy/Proxy Accreditation Issues Working Group that is studying similar issues in the gTLD space. The Working Group has published an initial report and is presently studying thousands of public comments that were received during a public comment period. The Secretariat will monitor the activities of the ICANN working group and will regularly update the Council.