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ICANN names new CEO

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the closest thing the Internet has to a governing body, taps Australian Paul Twomey to slip into the driver's seat.

WASHINGTON--The closest thing the Internet has to a governing body has chosen an Australian to be its next president and CEO.

Paul Twomey, an Australian Internet consultant and former bureaucrat, will take over the leadership of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Mar. 27, the group said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

Twomey succeeds the outgoing Stuart Lynn, who headed ICANN during a time marked by a lawsuit brought by one of its directors and growing controversy over the organization's penchant for secrecy and sluggish approval of new top-level domain names. In a widely cited February 2002 essay, Lynn wrote, "A candid assessment of ICANN's performance to date would have to conclude that it has fallen short of hopes and expectations."

Twomey, the first non-American to lead the group, said ICANN should focus on technical coordination but that its deepening involvement in policy issues like intellectual property, privacy, and law enforcement was inevitable.

"The consequences of those technical issues flow into other arenas, like intellectual property, consumer protection, and privacy, potentially even into commercial relationships between infrastructure providers," Twomey said. "The law enforcement issues are potentially issues like identification for Whois databases (which list information on domain name owners), identification of those people who are committing computer crimes, (and) ensuring that financial scams don't take place on the Internet."

Currently Twomey is a managing director of Argo Pacific, an Australian Internet consulting and incubator firm. He previously worked for the Australian Trade Commission, a government agency, and the global consulting firm McKinsey and Company. Until November 2002, he headed ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee, which represents national governments.

Twomey pledged to be open to new ideas and said he looked forward to taking ICANN into the "next era of the organization."

Michael Froomkin, a law professor at the University of Miami who is an editor of ICANNWatch, said he was worried about ICANN's mission creep under Twomey. "An ICANN that's been separated from any type of democratic accountability is an ICANN that should be focused just on technical judgments," Froomkin said. "There are some bad dynamics in ICANN about empire-building."

Twomey made what ICANNWatch has called a legally spurious claim to own Privacy.biz during the time period that trademark owners were able to block others from registering their intellectual property. Twomey is a founder of PrivacySolutions, one of hundreds of companies that include the word "privacy" in their name.

Karl Auerbach, an ICANN board member who successfully sued to gain access to its financial records, said he thought Twomey was "far more broad-minded intellectually" than his predecessors and was making an honest effort to try to understand the facets of the organization.

But, Auerbach said, "ICANN needs a severe shakeout. It needs someone who looks at the staff and says, 'This is too big. This is bloated. We should be a quarter of our size.' But I'm afraid that because of his distance and background, that's not going to happen."

ICANN's proposed 2003-2004 budget, which will be discussed at a meeting next week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will leap from $6 million for the current fiscal year to $8 million, a one-third increase.