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June 12, 2014

What Nominet’s .uk domain rules mean for your online blog or business

Policy sees your personal details made public if your website makes money.

By Ben Sullivan

The company which manages the .uk domain registry makes its domain name owners’ details and addresses publicly available unless they choose to opt out, but this option is only available to non-trade customers.

Users who set up a domain name through the company, called Nominet, will also have to show their full legal personal or business name on the public registration database.

The rules state that only domain name holders who are ‘non-trading’ can opt out of having their addressed details published. So domain owners who use their domains for business, trade or professional transactions, will have to go public.

In the contract rules, Nominet said: "We will make your personal data available in the following ways, but not release it for any other purpose to any other person. We may include it on WHOIS (which is also available outside the EEA) and PRSS. For these purposes we will publish your name and (unless you are a consumer and choose to opt out) your address, but not your phone or fax number or e-mail address."

WHOIS is a tool that searches the UK domain register database for the domain name and then returns a message with information about the domain name searched for.

Even if you are a blogger, having adverts on your site could indicate trade in the eyes of Nominet, and your personal details will have to be made public on WHOIS.

The focus on the word ‘consumer’ shows a rather strict view from Nominet in designating websites with only two classes, either buying or selling. Even having an email subscription link on .uk webpage has resulted in one blogger’s personal information being made public, a move which was later reversed by Nominet.

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The move by Nominet could mean bloggers on .uk domains who are in sensitive or anonymous positions may have to pull their website if their addresses and details go public.

Read Nominet’s full terms and conditions here.

Nominet got in touch with CBR with this comment:

"We aim to ensure consumers know who they are trading with, while also protecting the privacy of individuals.

"The WHOIS opt-out exists to protect consumer privacy when using UK domain names for your website and it is widely used. In fact over 2 million of our 10.5 million registrations have successfully opted out, so it is incorrect to draw the conclusion that our rules are prohibitively tight. You have to be an individual to qualify to opt out. Individuals can choose to opt out unless they are trading.

"However, we have always felt that when you traded with a website, you have a right to know who the proprietor is. Ensuring these registrants are "opted in" gives recourse in cases of fraud, missed delivery, etc., – and other things you’d expect of trading organisations – any consumer can look up the registrant of a website in the WHOIS and contact them if necessary."

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