FOILing the WHOIS Data for the .nyc TLD

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FOIL logoJackson Hts., New York, June 1, 2015 – A few of months back, when preparing our 6 month review of the .nyc TLD’s operation – see here, we grew curious about who had purchased the initial 75,000 .nyc domain names: Was this new resource being allocated in an equitable manner? For example, we wondered if the name purchasers were spread evenly over the city or concentrated in a particular neighborhood or borough. And if they were from a particular social or economic strata.

After considering the options for assessing the situation we concluded that the most effective way to envision the situation would be to plot the home addresses of registrants (aka owners) of .nyc domain names on a map. We’d seen something similar done with housing foreclosures resulting from the 2009 financial crisis. So we requested the WHOIS data from the city.

Over a 10 week period we exchanged a number of emails with city officials requesting the WHOIS data, which details who owns the .nyc domain names. After several back and forths with the city’s data keepers we concluded that it was unlikely that the data would be provided, and on May 27 we filed a data request under the NYS Freedom Of Information Law. We’ll keep you posted.

  • Update #1 – On June 5 I received acknowledgement that DoITT had received the FOIL request. As the law states that a response should have been received within 5 business days, we’re facing a lag of a few days. Also, the notification did not provide an estimated date when we might expect to receive the requested data, as required by FOIL. We’re following up.
  • Update #2 – Clarification resulted in the following: “Thank you for your email. If possible, DoITT will grant or deny your request by July 6, 2015, which marks the 20th business day from the date of acknowledgement. I am looking to locate the records that you have requested. At this time, I am unsure as to whether DoITT maintains WHOIS data of registrants of .nyc domain names.” While this seem outside the guidelines, activities here make it acceptable.
  • Update #3 – On July 6 we received notice that our request for location data (zip codes) for .nyc registrants was denied, as follows “Your request sought the following information: domain name, registrants name, contact postal code, administrative contact postal code, billing contact postal code, technical contact postal code, domain name registration date, and if registrant is a business or an individual. The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (“DoITT”) has completed research and found the attached list of domains with their registration date and whether the registrant is a business or individual. Pursuant to the .nyc End User Privacy Policy, DoITT is unable to release any personal information regarding domain registrants, including names or locations of registrants of .nyc domains. Therefore, the portion of your request seeking names and location information is denied.” We’ll soon post the data provided on a Beta-NY site and again seek the zip code location information.
  • Update #4 – On July 27 we received notification from DoITT’s General Counsel that our appeal of the July 6 decision had been rejected. An Article 78 filing is our next step. See more on this latest decision here.

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  1. Thomas Lowenhaupt  June 8, 2015


    We’re looking to gain routine access to the WHOIS information and to nurture a relationship with the de Blasio Administration. I recognize that taking them to court may not seem like the path to the mayor’s heart, but after considering the benefits everyone will derive from our analysis, I believe they’ll grow to appreciate our effort.

    Thanks you for the thoughts.

  2. texxs  June 8, 2015

    There are rules in place for this sorta thing. This is already public information ( Whois database managers just usually (not always) put measures in place to stop spammers and people like you from collecting this data in bulk. So build a scraper like the spammers do and you’ll have all the info.
    This info belongs to ICANN, not the city or state of New York by the way. You aren’t even suing the right people. I suspect you are trying to take advantage of a specific judge or group of judges) because they don’t have any tech knowledge. It’s not your fault that our politicians have little tech knowledge and don’t seem to want to learn. But taking advantage of the ignorant to get something you know you aren’t entitled to is wrong by anyone’s rules. Including your own. Especially when you are already entitled to the info, you just have to build a tool to get it. A tool that will cost far less than your lawsuit to build.

    So just hire a dude for a couple grand and make yourself an awesome target specific scraper like the spammers do.
    But to sue just to get an easier to manipulate data store is ridiculous. It’ll cost so much more money for one thing,. It also takes taxpayer dollars to defend against the suit. and again, you could have this info for a couple grand and be done with it.


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