You set your Facebook profile to private. You keep your email address safe and in the hands of only friends. You don’t ever post anything too private on your public profiles.
So, why would you share your personal information with the world when you register a new domain name?
Yep. When you register a domain, your name, phone number, email address, and even your home address are available for anyone to see. That is unless you pay for domain privacy, which can be well worth the $10 or so per year you’ll pay to protect your information.
Interested in learning more? Read on to check out what domain privacy is all about and how to apply it to your domain.
What is Domain Privacy All About?
As Wikipedia defines it, Whois “is a query and response protocol that is widely used for querying databases that store the registered users or assignees of an Internet resource.” Through this protocol, anyone can easily search any domain name and view the personal information associated with it.
This has some practical uses, such as:
- Determining whether a domain name is already registered.
- Allowing easy administration contact for technical issues.
- Obtaining a real-world identity of the person or business behind the domain.
But as an individual, the information shared through this database can be abused by spammers, identity thefts, and other people seeking out your personal information.
The good news is that you can hide this personal info from the Whois protocol and the eyes of the public by purchasing domain privacy through your domain registrar. Instead of listing your contact information, the database will list your registrar’s contact info, so anyone wanting to get in contact with you would have to go through your registrar first. (Or in some cases, they would have to have a subpoena to investigate.)
How Do You Protect Your Information?
So, how do you enable this feature so you can protect your personal information? This is something that can be set up when you register your domain. If you notice an add-on for “Domain Whois Privacy,” go ahead and add it to your cart. This usually costs around $10 per year per domain, so it shouldn’t be a financial burden if you only have a few domains.
Depending on your registrar, you may find that your purchase already includes domain privacy.
If you’ve already registered your domain, you can still add this privacy setting. Here’s how:
1. Check that Your Information is Private
First, start by checking if your information is private by visiting namecheap.com/domains/whois and typing in your domain name.
There appears to be a lot of information at first, but scroll a little ways down the page and you’ll notice lines like “registrant name,” “registrant street,” and “registrant phone.” If any of that looks like your information, then you have not enabled domain privacy.
If you have domain privacy, you’ll see proxy information in those areas instead. For instance, “registrant name” will look something like “DOMAIN PRIVACY SERVICE FBO REGISTRANT.”
2. Enable Privacy
The process for enabling Whois privacy will vary depending on the company you’ve registered your domain name through. For instance, if you’re using Bluehost, just visit “Domain Privacy” in your dashboard, check the domains you want to add privacy to, and head to the checkout.
For most domain registrars, you should be able to enable privacy somewhere in the “Your Domains” area of your account. Otherwise, contact customer service to purchase Whois privacy.
Do You Need Domain Privacy?
Domain privacy isn’t necessary for everyone. Some businesses, for instance, may want to keep their contact information public to add credibility to their domain and encourage people to get in contact with them when necessary.
In this case, a business email, phone number, and address are usually used, so there’s no risk of personal information getting out.
If you’re an individual running a hobby blog or launching a freelancing career, there may be personal information here that you don’t want shared with the world. In that case, it makes perfect sense to protect your information.
Is it Worth It?
Some people argue that domain privacy isn’t worth it because if someone wanted to find your information, they’d be able to find it somewhere else. Others feel they can rest with peace of mind as fewer spammers contact them and their information is less accessible. Honestly, it’s all up to you and what you feel comfortable with, but wouldn’t it be worth a mere $10 a year to rest in comfort?
If you want some of your information private and other parts of it available, there are alternatives. For instance, you could list a P.O. box instead of your home address, you could set up a unique email address used just for registering your domain, and/or you could get a free Google voice number (if you live in the U.S.) to protect your personal phone number.
Just know that intentionally giving false information could result in your domain being suspended per ICANN guidelines.
Are There Changes Coming to Domain Privacy Settings?
While these privacy options are currently in place, there’s talk of coming changes to domain rules.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a proposal is currently under consideration by ICANN (the global domain authority) that would restrict domain privacy from sites being used for commercial purposes. “Commercial purposes” could mean anything generating income, such as placing ads on your site.
This poses a risk for freelancers, solo bloggers, and other individuals who want to keep their information private but still make money with their site.
At this time, it’s not clear whether this proposal will pass the board vote, but in the meantime, you can still protect your information through a proxy registration service.
For such a small fee, and for it being pretty easy to enable, there shouldn’t be a reason not to protect your privacy as an individual. Do you plan on keeping your information private, or do you prefer it be available to anyone? Let us know in the comment section.