What is Domain Privacy Protection For a Registrant?
Crazy names like WHOIS and ICANN, what is this?
As with any discussion, it’s good to first touch on what it is we’re talking about. Domain privacy or WHOIS protection, (different registrars sometimes refer to it by different names) hides the domain registrant’s personal information from the public WHOIS database.
WHOIS is an organization that manages all data regarding domain registration. All registrant details are considered public information. In addition, the name-servers and other simple details regarding domain registrations (e.g. registration, renewal, and expiration dates) are defaulted as public information as well.
If someone knows a registered domain name, they can enter it into any WHOIS search tool on the internet to retrieve this public information. I like to use whatsmydns.com. With privacy protection in place, all of this information becomes masked. This includes hiding your personal name, address, phone, email, and business name. Instead, a generic registrar-generated information set is displayed.
Here is an example of a WHOIS response when privacy protection is not purchased:
Domain name: simpleminds.com
Simple Minds LLC
Fax: +1.647.222.4998 1250
Simple Street Simply Sweet, NE US
Simple Minds LLC
1250 Simple Street
Simply Sweet, NE
Simple Minds LLC
1250 Simple Street
Simply Sweet, NE
This example DOES have privacy protection enabled:
User Privacy Inc.
Customer 21398799 1987
Domain name: SIMPLEMINDS.COM
User Privacy Inc.
1987 Orlando Loop
Why You Need Private Domain Registration
Or shall we say, why we highly recommend it
When you purchase a domain, your registrar is required by ICANN to enter the contact information of the site owner. Some kind of information is required to be submitted. So unless you opt to protect your personal data, it will go public.
Privacy protection will hide personal contact information from whomever may be looking for it. This is a simple concept, and is the obvious reason that domain owners will opt for privacy protection.
Almost everyone has the ability to access the internet; meaning that almost anyone could potentially have access to your mailing address, phone number, and email address. If a website includes debatable or hotly-contested topics, it would be a smart and safe move to make personal contact details harder to obtain in the hopes of avoiding undesired contact from strangers.
Here are four reasons you should consider paying for private domain registration:
Prevent Domain / Website Hijacking
Domain Hijacking is a huge issue. There has been some relief with domain transfers being locked by default by most registrars after acquisition, so it’s not as easy as it used to be. With this lock set, no one is able to transfer your domain away from you unless they somehow manage to get access to your domain registrar account and email. Hiding your personal information puts yet another wall of protection to the process, making it extremely difficult for someone to steal the data and attempt to gain access to your account.While privacy protection is enabled, the domain transfer authorization email will be sent to the dummy email address listed rather than the registrant’s email address, making the transfer fail if not authorized. Most (if not all) dummy email addresses provided by registrars do NOT forward to the registrant’s email address.
2. Stop Unwanted Solicitations
Listing personal contact information for your domain is an open invitation to telemarketers, sales people, spammers, and con artists. There are service companies that are set up and all they do is sift through WHOIS data for contact information, most specifically from recently registered websites. I can attest to this.
It doesn’t take long after you register your domain that you will start getting a barrage of phone calls and emails about SEO services, content optimization, social media marketing, mailing services, virtual assistants, freelance opportunities from every imaginable location throughout the world.
What’s even more disheartening is that there are scammers who may contact you when your domain is nearing expiration that offer phony “renewal services” that actually do nothing to renew the domain. They will then transfer it without your knowledge, and cost the owner hundreds of dollars in bogus “services.” Be leary of any items that you receive in the mail regarding your domain, and always contact your current registrar before responding to such solicitations.
3. Protect Your Email Address
When you use private domain registration, your registrar typically creates an alias or unique email address that is used in place of your private email, within the WHOIS database. This email address does not remain constant as it is updated fairly often. This is done to keep away unsolicited email from spammers.
4. Protect Your Personal Data / Identity Theft Risk
Identity theft continues to be a way to common problem. Every two seconds there is a new victim. We all go to great lengths to protect our privacy as far as our banking, phone numbers, and even the information we share on social media. But the same precaution, logically speaking, should be taken with domain registration information.
There is enough data contained in a WHOIS domain record for a skilled and motivated thief to start causing problems for you. It could allow them to poke around in you personal data with the intention of stealing your identity. Using domain protection covers your tracks pretty well with the information of your proxy service.
Are There Downsides to Private Domain Registration?
Isn’t there always a downside to everything?
Privacy protection may seem like a common sense choice when you’re setting up a new website. After all, you are wanting to protect your personal information from illicit telemarketers and overall people with bad intentions.
But yes, there are some expected things that you need to consider with an added service like this.
1. The Expected Additional Cost
When you want extra protection from a service like this, you are going to pay for it. Prices can vary greatly from one provider to another. It can be a couple dollars a year to a couple extra dollars per month. It is another question to ask when you are shopping around for your domain. The cost of this service is not regulated by anyone, thus leaving the Private Registration Services the ability to determine their own rates. On one hand, you’re paying for them not to publish your information. On the other hand, how much value will you get from that privacy? It will be your decision inevitably as to whether or not it’s worth the additional expense.
2. Is Your Information Really Going to Be Private?
You can pay to have your personal information kept private in the WHOIS record, but can you trust your provider will really keep your information private? It is entirely possible that your registrar can sell or distribute your content information to other Third Parties. While there are ICANN policies in place, registrars have violated these in the past – so there’s nothing necessarily stopping less-trustworthy companies from sharing your registration information if someone were to contact them and ask for it.
3. Your Information Might Still Be Public From Previous Registration
Private domain registration can be set up at any time. If your domain was already registered without privacy protection in place, your information may still be public. There are tools available that allow people to do historic searches and find previously listed ownership data on domains. Some of these tools may even show transfer and sales records of domains.
4. Your Reputation May Be Questioned
The fact is that brands have not always proven they can be trusted and consumers in turn have become less trusting. This is evidenced by a Nielsen study showing that more than 92% of consumers trust peer data and peer reviews over brand advertising. Some of your prospective customers may even go so far as to check the WHOIS information to verify whether your business is legit.
There is a chance that if you have a business website and your contact information is fully private, a prospective customer may decide that you’re trying to hide something, or that you are not who you say you are. After all, why does a reputable business hide their public contact information? Maybe you’re not really who you say you are; you might be some scammer who is going to steal their credit card information. Transparency can go a long way towards alleviating the concerns of prospective customers.
5. Who Actually Owns the Domain
Whenever you opt for privacy or WHOIS masking, you should understand the implications of putting someone else’s information down as the registrar of the site. In the eyes of the registry (ICANN or CIRA), the individual or organization listed as the registrant for the domain is technically the legal owner of that domain name.
That means that even if you’ve paid for registration, you’re not the legal owner if your name is not listed in the WHOIS. Mind you, you aren’t likely to get into a legal battle with the registrar about who owns the domain. Still, if it were to ever come down to a legal dispute, the registrar could come out the winner with their information down as the site owner.
6. Privacy Protection Isn’t Always Available
Depending on the top-level domain you choose, you might not be able to set up privacy protection. It is widely available with most domain extensions with the exception of .cn, .us, .au, .asia, .eu, .xxx, .cc, .tv and .name.
With one of those domain extensions, you would be required to list your accurate contact information as the registered owner of that website domain.
The Conclusion Is…
As it is not a requirement to make additional investment into domain privacy protection, it may be a value point to initiate. In this day and age, it may be a worthwhile investment considering the value of your personal information to the “underworld”. Please feel free to submit a request for additional information here.