Monday, January 9, 2012

Domain Name Owners And Privacy

When you register a domain name, whether with us or with another registrar, it's required as part of your registration agreement by ICANN and InterNIC, the non-profit governing body of the International domain name registration system, that you include valid information in the registrant contact section, commonly known as the "WhoIs" section. The contact information requested is fairly basic: name, address, phone number and email address, with a fax number being optional.

Why the WhoIs Is Important

Per InterNIC, the reason for maintaining a WhoIs database:
Information about who is responsible for domain names is publicly available to allow rapid resolution of technical problems and to permit enforcement of consumer protection, trademark, and other laws. The registrar will make this information available to the public on a "WhoIs" site.

Providing false and/or inaccurate contact information on a domain name registration is grounds for cancellation of your domain name by ICANN. You will receive an annual notice reminding you to review your contact information and verify it's accuracy.

Typically this only becomes a problem if someone turns you in for having inaccurate WhoIs data, though this happens more than you might think. The Internet isn't lacking for people who are easy to piss off and have a lot of time on their hands.

At the same time you need to be aware that any information included in your WhoIs is made public where anyone can have access to it. This can and does open up domain name owners to spammers, scammers, telemarketers and other types of abuse, especially for those domain owners who either work from home or have domains that aren't associated with a business.

Protect Your Privacy The Smart Way

There are ways to protect your privacy and yet still be in compliance, it just requires a little "thinking outside the box."

Address: This can be any place that is authorized to accept postal mail on your behalf. That includes P.O. boxes, office addresses, friends' office addresses, or mail forwarding services. I would strongly urge any domain owner to NOT use their home address.

Please be aware that you WILL receive domain name transfers scam letters, mostly from the "Domain Registry of America", which has been going on for years, whenever its' owner isn't in prison for fraud. To circumvent US laws they have moved their operations across the border into Canada. Companies like DRoA are why the "registrar lock" option was created, so your domain name can't be transferred to another registrar without your knowledge and consent.

Phone Number: Just like your address this needs to be a valid one, but that doesn't mean it needs to be your home or cell phone number. There are several options available, such as using a free Google Voice number as your contact phone number. Once Google Voice is set up you can uncheck the options to have phone calls to that number forwarded to you, but just remember to check it every month or so for messages.

Email: This is probably the most abused contact method, as WhoIs records are routinely subject to email harvesters. Again, your listed contact email address needs to be a valid one, but it doesn't need to be your main email address. If you have email set up for your domain, you can use an email forward or a new email address created for the sole purpose of use on your WhoIs.

Make Your WhoIs Private With ID Protection

If none of the above options will work for you, then consider adding ID Protection. When you enable Privacy/ID Protection on a domain name, we replace all your publicly visible contact details with alternate contact information so that when a WHOIS query is performed on the domain, an alternate mailing address, email address and phone number are displayed.

  • You retain full ownership of the domain and have complete control of it.

  • Anyone that tries to contact you using the alternate email address or phone number provided in the public WHOIS database will be directed to an online contact form which will in turn email the message to you. All email sent to the alternate mailing address will be discarded. This method weeds out automated submissions while still allowing valid contact.

  • Privacy Protection can be disabled/enabled at any time.

Privacy protection is not available for the following domain names: .CA, .US, .EU, .CO.UK, .TEL

ID Protection can be added to any domain at the time of registration or renewal for only $1.00 per year. If you have an existing domain registered with us and would like to add Privacy/ID Protection, we'd be happy to add it for free for you (just submit a support ticket).

Though it is completely your choice, we don't recommend using a private domain for businesses. For the same reason a legitimate business wouldn't have their business phone number unlisted in the phone book, you shouldn't have your domain name "unlisted." As a legitimate business, you want people to be able to contact you, and it makes your business look questionable when your contact information is hidden. Sadly the private domain registration options are often abused by scammers looking to hide their identities, and that's not something any legitimate business should want to emulate.