Whenever you register a domain name you need to provide the registrar with your contact details. There are 4 pieces of information you need to provide :
- Administrative Contact – The admin contact is the person appointed to manage the domain name. They have complete control over the domain name
- Registrant Contact – This is the company or individual who has the right to use or sell the domain.
- Technical Contact – The technical contact is the person who is responsible for maintaining the DNS nameservers associated with the domain name.
- Billing Contact – This is the person who is responsible for renewing the domain.
Most individuals use the same information for all 4 contacts but companies sometimes use different contact information for the billing and technical contacts. I remind you all that you should not let a hosting company register a domain name for you as you will not have full control over the domain name. Hosting companies usually put themselves as the admin contact which means that in the eyes of the law they own the domain and not you.
The contact details I mentioned above are known as the Whois Information. These details are made public and anyone can see the whois information of a domain name simply by searching for it. This of course brings up some privacy concerns. A lot of people, for many different reasons, don’t like their home address and phone number plastered all over the web.
Because of this, millions of domain name owners use false whois information. Government authorities don’t like this as they want to be able to track down the owner of any illegal site. I wouldn’t recommend anyone putting false information in their whois because in the event of any domain dispute you could find yourself in a difficult situation because the registrar can’t confirm you are who you say you are. However, many still use false information to their whois.
If you are worried about your private information being posted on the web then a much better alternative is to purchase a Domain Shield from the registrar (it’s sometimes known as ID Protect, Whois Privacy Protect or something similar, it depends on which domain registration company you are using). By paying an additional fee you can switch your whois info from Public to Private. This reduces the chances of someone stealing your identity and makes it harder for spam companies to add your email to their spam list.
The privacy shield usually costs around $10 a year but it depends on which company you use to register your domains. Is this $10 a good investment i.e. should you be hiding your whois information?
Do you need to protect your whois information?
A few years ago I banned a member on a forum I ran. That domain had it’s whois protected but the member found out about another website I owned which didn’t have the whois privacy option enabled. He posted my home address publicly and told other disgruntled members to send spam to my home. Thankfully nothing happened and the members quickly recognised him as the idiot he was but it did highlight the fact that I don’t want my home address made public. Since then I have paid extra to make my whois information private.
I currently pay an extra $8 a year for ID Protect for every domain which I have developed (not including some personal websites). In total I have protected 14 domains so this is an additional $112 in registration costs. However, I do not pay for ID Protect on other domains I own (around 30) and I am planning on purchasing more so I decided to ask members of DNForum if they used the whois privacy option and whether they thought it was worth it.
The responses were varied :
- Some members do not protect their whois info.
- Some have setup a company address and PO box with the phone number redirected to voice mail.
- Some use fake addresses and emails for their whois info.
- Some do pay extra to protect their whois information.
Many domainers believe that you should always keep your whois public so that any potential buyers can contact you. I think this is a wise decision for domains which you are looking to sell however if you develop a domain privacy may still be a concern. And just how much security does ID Protect give you? A little but not as much as you may think.
What surprised me was that when you pay the registration company extra to protect your whois information they change the name of the admin contact to their company name so technically speaking, they own the domain name and not you. I don’t believe any domain name company worth its salt would take the domain from you but it’s something to bear in mind.
Something which does concern me is the security of my whois information and it’s not as secure as you may think. Apparently, most domain registrars will give up the whois information of a domain name to anyone who calls up. Surely this defeats the point of paying for whois privacy in the first place? In my opinion, yes and no. I’m not happy about the fact that anyone who puts a little effort into calling my domain registration company can find out my whois information but that info is a little more difficult to find and at least my email address is not public so spam is not a major concern.
Domainers seem to be split about whether protecting your whois information is worth it. After hearing what other domain traders think and reading several articles about the topic I have come to the conclusion that ID protection is a personal choice.
If you are not concerned about your home address and phone number being placed on the net then ID Protect is obviously a waste of money. If privacy is a concern then I recommend paying a little extra to protect the whois information of domains you develop.
Whether you protect the whois of undeveloped domains is entirely up to you. I do agree that making your whois information public will increase the chances of someone contacting you about a sale. However, if you have placed the domain for sale on a popular domain marketplace (eg. Sedo) the buyer will be able to place an offer on the domain anyways (though they will not be able to contact you about any specifics) and you can always list all of your domains for sale on a private portfolio page and a quick search would highlight this page to any potential buyers.
Therefore in my opinion, whether you pay extra to protect the whois of domains you are not developing comes down to how much you can afford. With the ID Protect costing about the same as a standard domain renewal it’s clear the more domains you own the less likely you are to pay extra to protect the whois.
Do you think it’s worth paying a little extra to protect your whois information? Or would you rather setup a PO Box and use a skype phone number or some equivalent for your phone number?
I’d love to hear what you all think of the subject.