Domain names aren't really my field of interest, so forgive me if this is old hat, but I happened to stumble across this Harvard Law School article [cyber.law.harvard.edu] while doing some test searches.
While many WHOIS errors likely result from accidental error in data entry or data processing, certain registrants have been found to intentionally provide systematically inaccurate contact information to registrars for inclusion in the WHOIS database. Such fraud can include the entry of invalid street addresses and phone numbers, i.e. contact information that in fact reaches no one, or it can instead offer as the purported registrant of a domain some third party in fact wholly unrelated to the domain.
Perhaps because of its academic objectivity, the article seems to me to be both oddly thorough and naive. It doesn't get into the possibilities of how the domains and listings might be used for link spamming, for example.
It's also summarized in an icannwatch.org article here [icannwatch.org], with a message thread of reactions following. This one (I'm quoting part of it) caught my attention:
It always amazes me how people simply assume that having "whois" data is an essential part of the domain name system. It is not.
There are relatively few other products that one can buy that require the purchasor to post his name onto a bulletin board that is visible to the world.
Why should a person who buys a domain name be subjected to this breach of privacy?....
i'd love it if icann etc were obliged to perform checks on domain names and delete those where contact details are found to be invalid. it could stop a large number of spammers and fraudsters from operating very easily.
the uk registration authority nominet will shortly be displaying names and addresses in public whois searches. [nic.uk...]