Commission looks '.name' gift registrations in the mouth

European Union

The European Commission has indicated that the eligibility rules governing the registration of '.name' domain names are consistent with the EU Data Protection Directive only when individuals are given sufficient control over the registration and use of their name as a domain name. This may mean that a domain name registered as a surprise gift is actually a violation of privacy rights.

In order to register any top-level domain name, certain personal details about the holder of the name must be supplied, including name, postal address, email address and telephone number. Some of this information will be published in online registers. Concerns have been raised as to the amount of personal information that is published (see Nominet offers WHOIS opt-out scheme). Further problems arise with gift registrations of '.name' domain names when personal information is given without a person's consent. An individual's name can be quickly linked to contact information, added to mailing lists and then misused long after any subsequent deletion from the registry. An unwanted domain gift might quickly turn into a privacy headache.

A commission spokesman, Erkki Liikanen, has stated that it is questionable whether gift registrations are consistent with the current '.name' top-level eligibility policy. He added that the extent to which such a service conflicted with the Data Protection Directive would depend on the way in which the service was provided.

Registrars permitting gift registrations would be well advised to ensure that no identifying information is made publicly accessible until the subject's knowledge and consent have been confirmed. Whether registries can live with such administrative overheads given the possibly huge future volume of '.name' registrations remains to be seen, but unless they address it, they may face litigation instead.

Alastair Breward (partner) and Sally Annereau (data protection analyst), Taylor Wessing, London

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