AboutUs.Org starting to cave in

Well, AboutUs are clearly listening to concerns (link, link, link, link, link) as they now have a mechanism in place to purge the histories, however it’s not easy to find from the front page of the site. He’s also improved the bot, to limit the amount of information retrieved, and provide a sensible credit. (see the “concerns” page again) – although to get a deletion you have to somehow prove you’re the site owner. Shame he doesn’t require this proof for creation or edits of records.

Update: This appears to be something he has to do manually, and I’d guess he’s a bit snowed under with requests – it’s taking a fair old time to get my page histories deleted.

Well, the changes to the bot and the manual deletion are a step in the right direction, but there’s still nothing to prevent someone who has nothing whatsoever to do with a domain from editing and posting information which you cannot guarantee the accuracy of. The site still does not require domain owners to “opt in” to the listing, and so many will have no idea that this, possibly inaccurate, information, including personal details is plastered across a page on that site.

However even this deletion will still leave a “placeholder” page on the site – this is not good enough – I don’t want my domain listed on this site. Ever.

(needless to say, his privacy policy still does not exist)

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Michael Cottington

Let’s start Digging these stories and bring the actions of to a much wider audience! Tell people, email your friends (at least, if they’re domain owners) and spread the word.

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4 thoughts on “AboutUs.Org starting to cave in

  1. Tom, I appreciate the feedback and since you also posted this on the concerns page, I left you comments there so I won’t repeat them here. But in reading you post, you mention your page’s history so I have deleted the page and put an opt out “placeholder” here: ( Let me know if there are any other domains you would like treated in this manner. – Ray.

  2. Following Ray’s comment above I have advised him of my other domains – it does seem that he’s listening to comments and critiscm about his new service.

    I still think there’s a problem in that peoples websites and personal details are being listed on this site without them being aware of it – and these details are still publically editable – if it was “opt-in” then webmasters would know they were being listed – this is my biggest concern over this – that people don’t know their details are being published.

  3. So if I understand, there are really three concerns — First, that AboutUs lists contact information, second that it doesn’t first ask (opt-in) and third that it’s editable. As far as the first goes, we are showing information that is publicly available at many other sites. Here are some examples to check out: Alexa DomainTools

    At AboutUs you can send me an e-mail and have this information removed (admittedly, when you wrote your first post, I didn’t have this function in place). At all of these sites, the contact information is plain to see, and I don’t think the majority offer removal at all.

    Another interesting site is the WayBack Machine (, which has multiple snapshots of most sites going back years.

    Speaking to the second concern, none of these sites contact people for an opt-in before their information is made available. I could see an argument that they AND AboutUs should ask first, but I don’t see where AboutUs is a worse actor today.

    To the third point — that the information is editable. People are allowed to write things publicly about other sites and do so all the time. For example blog posts and comments, forums, review sites, etc. In these cases, site owners are generally not informed. One might argue that much of this is moderated and therefore safer, but we’re also watching what is posted on AboutUs, it’s just a different technology.

    I realize this is only my view of the world, and I know there’s still tons of things we can do to improve so please view this only as a constructive effort to understand the issues better. – Ray.

  4. Ray

    I think you’ve basically hit the nail on the head – you are extracting information from WHOIS etc, and then making it editable. Whois is useful, and it is a simple database of domain registrations and ownership. It cannot then be modified without the consent of the domain owner.

    In the case of WHOIS data, by purchasing a domain, you are effectively “opting in” as WHOIS is a part of how the internet works (e.g. the details of mailservers and DNS servers etc). AboutUs is not related to the process of domain ownership, and I was given the opportunity to opt my personal details out of the WHOIS database when I purchased my domain, leaving just the essential technical information.

    The Wayback machine is indeed interesting with respect to copyright, but again, it’s not editable, it is taking a snapshot over time, and thats the end of it – those snapshots cannot be edited by random, unknown and anonymous people on the internet.

    There is a difference between writing publically about a site (e.g. as I have been doing here with regard to on a blog/forum/review site and anonymously editing information scraped from a site or whois record. Generally, forums, blogs etc are not anonymous.

    You also need to sort out a privacy policy (“under construction” or whatever it says on the page is not a privacy policy), regarding how you will protect information and privacy.

    I have no doubt that you are making progress in respect of these points – and I think preventing anonymous edits would be another good step – lets remove and anonymity over what is being written on, and have individuals being more accountable for what they write on there.

    (Also sent via email)

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