Individuals or organizations seeking to register the names of their Web sites may provide inaccurate contact information to registrars in order to hide their identities or to prevent members of the public from contacting them. Contact information is made publicly available on the Internet through a service known as Whois. Data accuracy in the Whois service can help law enforcement officials to investigate intellectual property misuse and online fraud, or identify the source of spam e-mail, and can help Internet operators to resolve technical network issues. GAO was asked, among other things, to (1) determine the prevalence of patently false or incomplete contact data in the Whois service for the .com, .org, and .net domains; (2) determine the extent to which patently false data are corrected within 1 month of being reported to ICANN; and (3) describe steps the Department of Commerce (Commerce) and ICANN have taken to ensure the accuracy of contact data in the Whois database.
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