ICA Supports ICANN Transparency Improvements

Philip CorwinUncategorized

ICA fully supported the insistence of ICANN’s community that the IANA Transition had to be accompanied by substantial improvements in ICANN Accountability.

Some of those improvements were deemed to be necessary preconditions to the Transition. They included substantial revisions of ICANN’s Bylaws to reflect new community powers, such as the ability to veto budgets or remove Board members. Those were Workstream One Accountability measures.

But Workstream Two measures,  to be accomplished post-Transition, are in many instances just as important. And that is particularly true of the steps necessary to make ICANN a far more transparent organization so that stakeholders can be fully aware of all that is going on and how decisions are reached.

That’s why ICA just filed a letter in strong support of the “CCWG-Accountability Work Stream 2 – Draft Recommendations to improve ICANN’s Transparency” published for public comment on February 21, 2017. Its most important recommendations relate to transforming ICANN’s Document Information Disclosure Policy (DIDP) – ICANN’s version of the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – into a far more robust and useful tool.

At present the DIDP is a weak and loophole-riddled procedure, allowing ICANN staff far too much discretion to dribble out shreds of data while denying most of a disclosure request under broad and subjective exemptions. As stated in our letter:

Accountability requires transparency. No organization can be held accountable if it is permitted to impose excessive constraints on the release of internal documents and the vital information they contain to affected stakeholders. Our experience in attempting to use the current DIDP is that it fails to provide an adequate response to reasonable information requests in a timely manner. That is because  the broad exceptions contained in it, combined with the excessive interpretative discretion allocated to ICANN staff, facilitates the withholding of important information to requesting parties simply because its disclosure might embarrass ICANN or raise further questions about its decisions and actions.

We therefore enthusiastically support the great majority of the recommendations made with the aim of converting the DIDP into a far more robust and useful procedure.

The Draft recommendations also propose useful improvements in the areas of documenting and reporting on ICANN’s interactions with all governments; transparency of Board deliberations; and enhanced whistleblower protections for ICANN employees.

Now that the comment period is concluded, we hope the subgroup will quickly resume its activities, fully consider all comments, and deliver a final set of recommendations as quickly as possible. These important transparency enhancements should be adopted and implemented at the earliest feasible time. Then the next time we contemplate filing a DIDP request we can be confident of actually receiving the requested data, with denial a narrow exception rather than a general rule.

You can read the full text of our letter here.