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Thus challenges Nominet on ‘whois’ privacy issue

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Thus - the alternative telco group that owns the Demon ISP - is looking to challenge plans to introduce changes to Nominet's 'whois' Web site ownership directory.

It claims that Nominet's decision to publish the contact addresses of all registrants regarded as "trading" or "businesses" might not be legal.

It has already held informal talks with the Information Commissioner and is considering whether to make a formal complaint.

Thus' concerns seem to centre on what exactly is allowed under the Distance Selling and Electronic Commerce Regulations.

The alternative telco believes that these regulations do state that businesses must publish their contact details under certain circumstances and in certain manners.

However, it believes it is not clear that they should allow Nominet to publish this information without seeking prior agreement.

It maintains that in many cases the contact details published on Web sites relate to technical and support services, and may be wholly inappropriate to be listed in a directory as the main contact address for a business.

Thus' view is that the Nominet database is a directory. And as defined by the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations it gives individuals and businesses certain rights such as the option to be ex-directory.

Ian Hood, Thus director of communications and regulation said: "While we can understand that Nominet would like some degree of conformity with 'whois' services internationally, we do feel we have a duty to question the proposals on behalf of our customers.

"The right to privacy is an important one - individuals have entirely legitimate reasons for wishing to remain anonymous. For instance we don't object to people's phone numbers being ex-directory. It is important that any changes to the way information is handled are carried out entirely in accordance with the existing legislation," he said.

Nominet, though, remains confident it has taken all the necessary steps to ensure that the changes to the 'whois' database comply with UK legislation.

It has held a lengthy consultation on the matter, received "copious amounts of legal advice" and engaged in a number of meetings with the Information Commissioner over the last six months.

"The only concern the Information Commissioner had was about the privacy of non-trading individuals, which is why we introduced an opt-out clause for them," Nominet MD Leslie Crowley told The Register.

In April, Nominet UK announced plans to make more information available about individuals and organisations that have registered domain names.

At the moment anyone who makes a WHOIS enquiry for .uk domains receives the registrant's name, the date it was registered and when the entry was last updated.

But the registry for .uk Internet domain names also wants to provide the address of the domain registrant.

Nominet UK clams it has taken the decision because it has come under increasing pressure to make contact details publicly available in line with other top level Domain registries around the world.

In August it agreed that private individuals should be able to opt out of the scheme. ®

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Nominet UK in climb-down over WHOIS data
Nominet challenged on personal data changes
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