WHOIS has been the subject of intense policy development interest for many years. The original use of WHOIS data and the WHOIS query protocol and web services created to deliver public access to that data was largely technical.
Over time, WHOIS data has been increasingly used for other constructive and beneficial purposes; for example, WHOIS data is sometimes used to track down and identify registrants who may be posting illegal content or engaging in phishing scams. However, some WHOIS data uses that have emerged are viewed as potentially negative; for example, WHOIS data has been harvested and used to send unwanted spam and fraudulent email solicitations.
Unrestricted online access to domain name registrant contact information has caused concern among privacy advocates and some individual registrants. Concerns have also been raised that WHOIS requirements in the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) and in registry agreements may conflict with privacy laws in various countries that protect personal information from being revealed publicly. As time passed, concerns have grown about WHOIS data accuracy and usability, as well as WHOIS ability to meet new technical requirements such as support for internationalized domain names.