The Domain Name Commission WHOIS system should be altered to allow suppression of personal information where there is evidence of risk to personal safety, the New Zealand Law Society says.
In a submission to the Commission on stage 2 of its review of the WHOIS register, the Law Society says there are precedents for this approach as several other New Zealand public registers allow suppression of details from online publication where there is a protection order in place. Examples are the electoral roll and the motor vehicle register.
"The ability to suppress will only be effective if individuals are aware that it exists," the submission says.
"If the Domain Name Commission introduces a suppression mechanism, the Law Society recommends that the Commission publicise its availability.
The Law Society says the WHOIS system generally works well. The domain name system is an integral part of modern commerce and also supports individual registrants' ability to exercise their freedom of expression online.
While it is essential that the system is trustworthy, unfortunately misuses occur from time to time. Examples of this are registration of domain names to mislead consumers, to circumvent competitors' rights, to engage in identity theft, or to attack other individuals.
"When misuses occur, it is important to be able to deal quickly and effectively with them," the Law Society says.
"Quick and effective enforcement reduces the financial, emotional and reputational damage that can occur. It also has a deterrent effect, though it will not stop misuses altogether."