Changes to Nominet’s policy on the publication of contact data in the .UK WHOIS

Our current WHOIS has been in place since 2002. It publishes technical and contact data for registrants, including the registrant’s name and address. Our policy on WHOIS must balance the need, as a responsible registry, for Nominet to collect accurate data and an increasing desire for privacy online amongst some registrants.

An extensive process of policy development and stakeholder consultation was undertaken in light of stakeholders’ evolving expectations on registrant privacy, whilst ensuring we can continue to meet our obligations as the registry for .UK domains. The broad policy objectives are that we:

  • continue to meet our stakeholder expectations;
  • ensure the competitiveness of .UK amongst registrars; and,
  • prioritise securing registrant data in line with our role as a central authoritative register.

Between March and June 2015 we sought feedback on a two part proposal, the first of which was to refine the criteria that allow individual registrants of non-trading domains to opt out of publication of their address details in the .UK WHOIS (the “WHOIS opt-out”). The second was a proposal to introduce a framework to recognise registrar privacy services in response to a rapid increase in the use of privacy services. Nominet has not previously recognised privacy services and therefore registrants using a privacy service for their domain are not recognised as the official domain-holder. As such, their registrar (or privacy service) is recognised as the legal registrant of record and assumes legal liabilities for the domain. Maintaining the status quo was deemed unsatisfactory as it would continue to erode the rights of registrants and third parties, as well as the quality of data in the register.

Stakeholder feedback was positive in response to the proposals’ objectives and broadly supportive of the changes, with some comments highlighting perceived unintended consequences or confusion that could be addressed. A minority of responses objecting to the growth of privacy services were matched by a small number of respondents who felt that registrants should be “opted-out” by default. Notwithstanding these polar views, the majority of these respondents recognised Nominet’s need for contact data and there was strong support from industry and public authorities for a continued data validation programme. Following on from the consultation, our policy will be updated, so that:

  • Nominet will formally recognise privacy services by allowing all registrars to flag privacy on any registrant domain name and to indicate a privacy service for these domains.
  • Minor changes will be introduced to the eligibility criteria for domains where the registrant wishes to opt out from publishing their address in the .UK WHOIS.

We believe these policy changes will enable Nominet to deliver the best possible outcome for our stakeholders, including registrants and WHOIS users, and support Nominet in its role as the registry. Further background on this policy including a summary of the changes, background to the policy changes, a summary of the consultation feedback prepared by the Secretariat and an independent summary are available. We have also published written responses to the consultation where we have permission to do so.

We thank all stakeholders who took the time to contribute their input to this policy process, in response to the formal consultation or through hosted meetings, and those who responded to surveys as part of the initial evidence gathering process.

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