Whenever you register a domain you’re required by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to submit your personal information including your name, address, phone number and email.
You might not have known that ICANN also requires this information to be publicly available available through the WHOIS directory.
In the frequently asked questions on their website ICANN says this is “to allow rapid resolution of technical problems and to permit enforcement of consumer protection, trademark, and other laws”.
Each domain has a registrant contact (the person who registered the domain), an admin contact (the person managing the domain), a billing contact (the person who gets billed for the domain) and a tech contact (the person looking after technical support for the domain).
If you registered the domain yourself usually your own personal information is entered for the registrant, admin and billing contact and the information of the company you registered the domain with is entered for the tech contact.
If you head over to whois.icann.org and enter in any domain you can see the personal information for these contacts as well as a bunch of other interesting information.
Needless to say, this is kind of a problem because anyone can look up your domain and collect your personal information. This opens you up to spam, identity theft, doxing, direct marketing and who knows what else.
This is where Domain Privacy Protection comes in. Pretty much every domain registrar offers this service. In some cases it’s included for free and in other cases it should cost at most $10 to $15 per year.
If you try to do a WHOIS for this domain, realtydigitalmarketing.com you’ll see the following information:
Registrant Contact Name: Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 0140043445 Organization: Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 0140043445 Mailing Address: 96 Mowat Ave, Toronto ON M6K 3M1 CA Phone: +1.4165385457 Ext: Fax: Fax Ext: Email:email@example.com
Admin Contact Name: Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 0140043445 Organization: Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 0140043445 Mailing Address: 96 Mowat Ave, Toronto ON M6K 3M1 CA Phone: +1.4165385457 Ext: Fax: Fax Ext: Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Tech Contact Name: Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 0140043445 Organization: Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 0140043445 Mailing Address: 96 Mowat Ave, Toronto ON M6K 3M1 CA Phone: +1.4165385457 Ext: Fax: Fax Ext: Email:email@example.com
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.tucows.com URL: http://tucowsdomains.com Registrar: IANA ID: Abuse Contact Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Abuse Contact Phone: +1.4165350123
Status Domain Status:clientTransferProhibited https://icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited Domain Status:clientUpdateProhibited https://icann.org/epp#clientUpdateProhibited
Important Dates Updated Date: 2016-02-11 Created Date: 2011-01-06 Registration Expiration Date: 2017-01-06
Name Servers NS1.HOVER.COM NS2.HOVER.COM
As you can see, all the personal information for the registrant, admin and tech contacts have been replaced with the information from a company called Contact Privacy Inc.
This is ok with ICANN because they allow another person or company to assume legal ownership of the domain.
Having someone else as the legal owner of your domain might sound a bit frightening and it has definitely caused problems in the past.
For example there was a case where a company called RegisterFly went out of business and their customers had a great deal of difficultly regaining control of their domains.
This isn’t an issue today though as ICANN requires all accredited registrars to keep their customers contact information locked away in escrow.
In the event that the registrar goes out of business that information is transferred to a new registrar and you remain in control of your domain.
Because it’s so inexpensive to hide your personal information we highly recommend that whenever you purchase a domain you make sure to get domain privacy protection.
When you sign up for Bluehost you can get domain privacy protection for $0.99 a month.
Some domain registrars even provide this service for free.
The only time we would say it’s probably ok to not have domain privacy protection is if you’re registering a domain for a business and your businesses contact information is already freely available on your website.
If you’re freely giving out your address, phone number, email and whatnot to your customers anyways, then you don’t really need to hide this information from your WHOIS record.
If you’re doing any sort of personal business such as a blog and you want to keep your contact information private then you definitely want to make sure you have WHOIS Privacy Protection.