Domain Name Registrant Privacy
By Brad Stitgen
Have you registered a domain name using your home phone, address, and personal email as part of the required contact information? Did you know that this information can easily be retrieved by anyone on the internet? Yep, it’s true! The contact information that you are required to divulge when you purchased your domain name goes into a database known as a Whois database. Just search for “whois” and you’ll find a number of sites allowing you to search who owns a particular web domain. For businesses with a physical presence such as an office or a storefront operation, this is likely not a big deal. For those working out of their home or apartment it certainly can be an issue.
Why Your Contact Information is Made Public
You may be wondering why domain registrars require you to enter your contact information and then go ahead and publish it in a database that is open for everyone to see. The reality is that they are required to do so due to the rules of the governing body that oversees the assignment of all domain names… otherwise known as ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). ICANN requires that all domains have publicly accessible contact information and since all domain registrars need to abide by ICANN rules there is no way to not be listed on the Whois database.
Enter Privacy Manager Services
While ICANN does require public disclosure of valid contact information for every registered domain it does allow the use of proxy services that act as sort of a registered agent. By this I mean you are allowed to use a service that acts as your contact. This service uses their name and physical location for the required contact information… not yours. If for any reason someone needed to get in touch with you they could contact the registration service which would, in turn, notify you. It should be noted that not all domain extensions qualify for this type of service. For example, .US, .NAME, .EU and, .DE may not use privacy managers. Luckily the major domain extensions, .COM, .NET, and .BIZ are all fine.
How to Go About Finding and Using a Privacy Manager
The good news is privacy manager services are offered by many of the leading domain registrars. If using such a service is important to you simply pick a registrar that offers it. Some of the registrars that offer it are Go Daddy, Google Domains, Network Solutions, and NameCheap. Prices range from free (Google Domains & NameCheap) to around $3 to $10 (or less if you can hunt down an internet coupon) per year for each domain.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Using a Privacy Manager
Not really. While there are those that feel all contact information should always be made public, for many home-based businesses this may not be wise. It has also been suggested that the large search engines such as Google may slightly penalize domains utilize privacy services. Truth is, nobody but the search engines know for sure. That said, search engines use hundreds of indicators in determining how well a website is ranked. Unless you are using hundreds of domain names with hidden contact information in some elaborate SEO boosting scheme you have little to be worried or concerned about. Having plenty of well marked up content and high-quality links to your site are really what is important for ranking well, not whether or not your domain contact information contains your home address!