Domain Registration PrivacyPosted on
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Everyone wants to keep their information safe and secure online with various organisations constantly reminding us not to give out any personal information to third parties without being safe in the knowledge that this information will be kept secure and not shared. However, in the context of the individual as a website owner there seems to be a degree of discrepancy in the safety of personal information. Indeed many consider this to be a breach of privacy, specifically Domain Registration Privacy.
Essentially it is a legal requirement that anyone who signs up for a particular domain name must provide basic personal identifying information, namely email address, postal address and full name. It is not hard to understand a domain registrar’s need for this information which must of course be disclosed to the authorities if a website owner appears to be acting illegally. However, this personal information far from being stored and secured, is in fact freely available to the internet public at large in the form of “WHOIS” data. There are a number of sites that allow you to freely interrogate this data, examples including www.whois-search.com. Whilst using these services to identify the owner of a particular site may be interesting and indeed useful for genuine and ethical business reasons, it is also ruthlessly exploited by those with less admirable intent. As an example, many spammers (senders of unsolicited email) will “scrape” this data and use it to add your email address to their databases.
If you own a website that may be, for whatever reason, contentious, the threats that you may receive via email can be extremely alarming. In truth, we all know that there is an unreasonable element out there. Almost regardless as to the type of business or site you own, someone will be shouting at you. Shouting via email is one thing but knowing that that individual has what may well be your private address to hand can be deeply unsettling.
Domain Registration Privacy Options
Before you start feeling as if you are living in some kind of Orwellian nightmare online and that privacy is dead, there are a few facts and options that may be reassuring. Although the provision of this information is an understandable legal requirement to ensure that site owners are accountable for their actions online, there are a number of ways in which you can control and limit the type of organisations and individuals that have access to this information.
Your web hosting company or domain registrar (if different) may offer the option of private registration, either using their own details for the WHOIS information or, in some jurisdictions, requesting that the domain registration authorities do not display contact information. Most major registrars now provide this option, Nominet being perhaps one of the best known. Some will, however, charge for this service. It is also worth noting that private registration is NOT generally available in this context unless the domain is registered by an individual. Domains registered by companies will have their details displayed.
There is an useful and, most importantly free, service available to any domain name owner online who wants to obscure their personal details from all but the necessary parties. This service, rather than allowing anyone to look up the personal contact information stored in connection with your domain, will redirect any inquiry to the website operated by this service. From there the searcher will be required to fill out an application form requesting the information and you yourself can receive these applications and determine whether to release the information accordingly. Alternatively you can require that the company providing this service filters these requests without your involvement. They should be able to root out legitimate and safe enquiries from malicious nonsense.
Organisations such as privacyprotect.org are championing the privacy of thousands of domain name owners. It is their assertion that they do not own any of the domain names for which they work but rather provide the service as a means of restoring privacy and protecting their clients. These services are not just aimed at protecting domain owners but also at protecting the average surfer. Privacy Protect has a policy of rejecting any domain names known to take part in spamming and other unscrupulous activities online and has made it easy to report a domain name on their site.
In this sense, the fight for domain name privacy can be seen as a reciprocal relationship that isn’t aimed at the exclusion of one party in favour of another, nor at protecting those who use websites for unethical practices. It is in fact a step in the right direction for the internet as a whole.