Nominet attacked for personal data plan

United Kingdom

Nominet, the registry for all domain names ending '.uk', is the subject of a website campaign against its plan to make publicly available the addresses of those who register or have already registered domain names.

The website coordinating the campaign, Nominet-No.co.uk, argues that Nominet will be in breach of data protection laws if it displays extra details about those who have registered domain names, because these individuals registered the domain names in the expectation that only their personal names would appear in the publicly accessible WHOIS database. Under Nominet's plans, full contact details, including home and email addresses, will also appear online.

Nominet says it has come under pressure to make the contact details publicly available, in line with other country-code top-level domain registries around the world. The registries for generic top-level domains - such as '.com' or '.biz' - already make these details available.

The Nominet-No site points to a provision which could, until recently, be found in Nominet's terms and conditions:

"The register of '.uk' domain names will include the names of the applicant and the administrative contact and other details relating to them. This information (if it refers to individuals) is 'personal data' for the purposes of data protection legislation."

Nominet-No argues that this means that the register will only display "the names". However, Nominet will likely argue that the words "and other details relating to them" give it authority to display additional information, such as home or email addresses.

Since the campaign was initiated, Nominet has updated its terms and conditions, clarifying any ambiguity. In its explanation of the proposed change to the WHOIS records, it argues that it is entitled to display the additional information on the basis of its terms and conditions - but in doing so, it refers only to the new wording, not that to which most individuals agreed when registering their domain names over the past few years. Those who registered domain names under the old conditions will only become subject to the new conditions upon transfer or renewal of their domain names.

Jon Fell, OUT-LAW.COM, Masons, London

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