UK registry grants privacy protection

The registry for .uk domain names will allow domain name holders to opt out of having their personal addresses displayed online

Nominet, the registry handling .uk domain names, has stepped back from a plan that would have published the physical addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers of thousands of private individuals.

Instead, Nominet will allow domain name holders the option of keeping their contact information hidden, unless they are a trading company.

The registry had planned to add contact information to the UK's WHOIS search facility, which allows anyone to look up contact information for the registrant of any domain name. Currently, the service displays only the organisation or individual who registered the domain name and when the registration was made. Verisign, which operates the registry for common domains such as .com and .org, offers much more detailed contact information over its WHOIS service, including phone and fax numbers and physical addresses.

However, many domain name holders feared such disclosure would inevitably put their privacy at risk. "While the principle of improving the scope of the WHOIS search facility remains, we have changed our plans to take account of the concerns expressed," said Nominet UK managing director Lesley Cowley in a statement.

Nominet said on Tuesday that it would introduce the new plan in two stages. At the beginning of October, Nominet will begin displaying contact addresses for registrants classified as businesses. Addresses will be added for all other .uk domain names as of the beginning of December, unless the registrants have opted out of the scheme. The opt-out will not be available to businesses, which are required under UK law to provide contact information.

The new WHOIS service will not display email addresses, telephone numbers or fax numbers. Nominet said that it is authorised to display addresses under the terms and conditions under which it sells domain names. In December the firm will begin using new terms and conditions that draw the user's attention to the opt-out scheme.

Domain name holders can opt out by contacting the registration agent they used to acquire the domain name.

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