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September 27, 1998

EFF REVEALS IANA-NSI CLOSED SELECTION PROCESS

By CBR Staff Writer

With a spot of cutting and pasting, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) last week inadvertently revealed the process by which the members of the board for the new non-profit entity to run the domain name system are being chosen. It appears they are being hand picked by a closed process, behind firmly shut doors, contrary to everything the US government has urged the internet community to do. The EFF, a non-profit public advocacy group that supports free speech on the internet issued a press release Thursday criticizing the latest draft to come out of the discussions between the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and Network Solutions Inc (NSI) (see separate story). In the last paragraph, which is apparently part of a letter from the EFF to the IANA director Jon Postel, it said, by way of explaining the EFF’s role in attempting to resolve the DNS battles, EFF has been tracking the DNS governance issue for the past several years. One of EFF’s Board members is on the IANA Transition Advisory Group; another has agreed to join the Initial Board; a third was instrumental in the CORE effort to provide a capable competitor in global domain registration. Dave Farber, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the architects of NSFNet is on the ITAG, while John Gilmore, EFF co- founder and board member is involved with CORE (Council of Registrars). The EFF’s director of public affairs Alex Fowler said the EFF wasn’t trying to play dirty politics, which nobody was accusing it of doing, but questions need to be answered. In an attempt to do this we called IANA, which was as obstructive as usual and Jon Postel never got back to us, again, as usual. Calls to NSI’s senior VP Don Telage, who is usually fairly communicative, were not returned either. It seems that informally approached would be a better term to use than invited, says Fowler, but apart from us knowing that the person is not John Gilmore, his or her identity remains a mystery. The best guess is Farber, due to his involvement in Postel’s ITAG, but he was traveling in Europe and was unavailable Friday. As expected, IANA has apparently got a list of people and has begun approaching them, but the contents of the list remain confidential. The EFF seems to be the innocent in all this, and was disappointed that it distracted attention from its policy statement, although EFF president Barry Steinhardt did say that he didn’t think that person wanted their identity disclosed. Ironically, this comes from an organization whose opening blurb contains the phrase working in the public interest to protect fundamental civil liberties, including privacy and freedom of expression, in the arena of computers and the internet. This is not good public relations, and the approach of IANA and NSI does not augur well for a board of directors representing the diversity of interests and backgrounds that the government is trying to achieve on the board of the new entity.

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