WHOIS data, if its purpose is to be able to contact registrants, needs to be accurate. Various studies that assessed the quality of WHOIS data have collectively shown that the accuracy of the data needs to be improved.
How does one determine whether the data displayed in a WHOIS Record is accurate? There may be contact information that appears correct – i.e. that represents a valid and viable name and address (electronic and/or physical) – but is not necessarily accurate, i.e. it does not correspond to the person registering, managing or owning the domain name.
There is debate in the ICANN community over how to test accuracy of WHOIS data. Some believe that testing the accuracy of individual data elements is problematic and could require a level of intrusion (such as physical visits).
Until the adoption of the new 2013 RAA, registrars were not required to verify or validate WHOIS data. The 2013 RAA includes obligations to validate certain WHOIS data fields, and verify either the email address or telephone number displayed. ICANN has committed to publishing studies to evaluate how WHOIS accuracy levels improve over time. These studies may lead to additional policy development activities within the GNSO to modify existing policies or create new ones to make WHOIS more accurate.
Consistent with this commitment, as well as ICANN's goals of transparency and accountability, ICANN is in the midst of developing a comprehensive WHOIS Accuracy Reporting System (referred to as the ARS). When fully developed, the ARS will produce ongoing reports capable of tracking trends in accuracy rates and report on the specific factors that affect accuracy.