Your Guide to Whois and Whois Privacy
By Sunny Golovine
Updated May 29, 2020
Learn about what “whois” is all about, whois privacy and whether or not your should use domain name privacy for your domain name.
Whois privacy is a key component of keeping yourself safe online. By keeping your Whois information private you protect yourself as a website owner from spam, phishing and other online attacks that use your personal information. But there are some tradeoffs to Whois privacy and in this article I want to tell you whether whois privacy is right for you and where the best place to get it is.
To start, what exactly is“whois” and what is “whois privacy”? The answer is really quite simple, when you register a domain name, you have to give the domain registrar some information about yourself including your full name, email address and physical address. All of this information is then sent off to ICANN to register the domain to yourself. When that is done ICANN submits your information to the Whois registry and anyone can then look up your personal information by looking up the Whois information on the domain name.
This is done for transparency sake, in an ideal world how this will work is if you find a domain that is unused (or “parked”), you can run a Whois lookup on the domain, find the person that owns it, and then purchase the domain from that person. However this is seldom done and since its inception, spammers have been using the Whois registry to find new victims to their crimes.
Whois privacy, also known as domain privacy or domain name privacy, is a service that most registrars offer when you buy a domain from them. All they do is when you register your domain name, instead of sending your data to the registrar, they will send over their data instead. Now when spammers do a whois lookup on your domain, instead of seeing your information, they see the “privacy” information instead which is just publicly available company info.
Whois privacy is offered by your domain registrar whenever you buy a new domain name. Some registrars provide this service for free such as Namecheap (through their WhoisGuard service); however, others charge for the service, usually a small annual fee when you purchase and renew your domain name.
Depending on the TLD (top level domain) that you choose, this might either not be a concern, or not be an option. Some TLD’s do not collect user information and mask if by default, TLD’s like .uk (the TLD for the UK) offer some levels of protection like masking the Address of the user while others like .ca (the TLD for Canada) masks all information. On the other hand others prohibit masking and require that all your details be posted online, TLD’s like .us (the TLD for the United States) or .it (TLD for Italy) prohibit masking of your personal information like described above.
So up until this point Whois privacy seems like a complete no-brainier. For the most part it is however it does carry some risks. The primary risk is because your information is not on the domain but rather your domain registrar. If for some reason your Domain Registrar goes belly up, recovering your domain will be difficult if not impossible because ICANN does not have you listed as the owner of the domain.
That’s the other thing, because your are not listed as the registrant on the domain information, when it comes to legal disputes over who owns the domain, things might get a bit more complicated.
However, these risks are those worth taking, if you register with a well established domain registrar then the chance of them going belly up is minimal, and the chance that you get into some legal dispute over your domain name is also minimal. However the upside of having your personal information protected from prying eyes cannot be understated. Whether or not your domain registrar offers whois privacy for free, I highly suggest you get it.