Hacker, Critic Elected to Domain Name Board

Along with three other members of the public, a German hacker and a vocal American critic of the domain name process have been elected to the board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the group that oversees the domain name system and Net addressing functions.

However, the new members will not become official until after ICANN’s November board meeting, which means they will not vote for the new top-level domains — such as .com, .net and .org — that will be added to the addressing system.

ICANN, which has been criticized for being secretive and out of touch with the public, held open elections for the first time involving five “at-large” berths in its 19-member board of directors.

More than 76,000 members of ICANN were eligible to vote in the election, which selected the new directors in five regions from a total of 27 candidates. Many observers expect the five new board members to be the voice of the Internet public, in contrast to the other nine members already on the board.

Those members represent three internal supporting organizations, composed mainly of Internet service providers (ISPs) and networking professionals.

Need for Transparency

Vocal ICANN critic Karl Auerbach, a Cisco Systems engineer, won the North American seat. Auerbach, who ran an anti-ICANN campaign, said one of his first acts will be to familiarize himself with confidential ICANN records. He has argued against ICANN’s growing global influence and has called for the dismissal of several senior staff members.

Andy Mueller-Maguhn, winner of the European seat, is a member of the Chaos Computer Club, a well-known German activist group. The club, which includes around 1,600 members, has claimed credit for several infamous government computer security breaches.

“The idea must be to make things at ICANN transparent and the decisions future-compatible,” Mueller-Maguhn said.

The winner of the African seat, Nii Quaynor of Ghana, said he will work toward bringing the continent into the Internet mainstream.

“The deep involvement of Africa, as the newest of the emerging Internet communities, is critical for the success of the ICANN process in order to avoid further digital divide,” Quaynor said.

The other winners were Masanobu Katoh, a Japanese citizen who lives in the U.S. and works for Fujitsu, and Ivan Moura Campos, who won the South America seat.

Controversial From the Start

Based in Marina del Rey, California, ICANN has been controversial since its inception, enduring criticism from a variety of factions as well as having difficulty convincing outsiders to acknowledge its authority.

The group is responsible for actions that affect the more than 300 million people worldwide who are connected to the Internet. Many observers fear that ICANN will grow beyond overseeing largely technical addressing functions and move into the policy-making arena.

The non-profit group was chosen by the Clinton administration in 1998 to oversee the technical running of the domain name system and related network management functions, which were originally handled under U.S. government contracts.

The results of the 10-day online election were finalized late Tuesday night.

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