U.S. Gov considers Whois privacy for .us domain names

Whois information would still be easy to obtain on a limited basis.

Picture of a lock on chain with the words "Whois Privacy"

Nearly all domain name ownership data has been redacted from public Whois in the wake of privacy regulations such as GDPR. But one top level domain name remains an outlier: .us.

All Whois info for .us domains remains available on the web, much to some people’s surprise.

The U.S. government is considering changing this, although not to the extreme of other top level domains.

GoDaddy Registry, which manages the .us namespace, has proposed a system to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for reducing access to Whois.

The proposal is to create a gateway system and place the Whois information behind this gateway. Whois information for .us domains would no longer be freely and anonymously available on the web.

Instead, people requesting Whois data would need to submit a reason. They will get instant access if they select from a pre-defined list, or they can submit another reason and get access within a day or two. Marketing will not be an allowed purpose. Law enforcement entities could be pre-authorized for instant access.

Crucially, requestors would have to provide their name and email address, and agree to terms of service. It’s not clear how this contact information would be validated.

The proposal seems like it could appease trademark and law enforcement interests while cutting down on bulk marketing to .us domain registrants.

Hopefully, the access and terms of services will be as open as possible while avoiding solicitations and spam from bulk Whois data harvesters. For example, I would like to be able to view Whois information for journalistic research. And I want people interested in buying my .us domains to be able to contact me.

One interesting thing the NTIA and GoDaddy might consider is providing information about requestors to the domain owner. You can see my information if I can see yours. This notification could be delayed in the case of legal and law enforcement requests related to ongoing investigations.

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