As you sign up with a web hosting company or make changes to your current plan, one thing you may want to consider is domain privacy. Domain privacy, also referred to as WHOIS protection, WHOIS privacy or WHOIS guard is becoming increasingly popular both with web hosting companies and website owners alike. But is this feature worth spilling out the few extra dollars each year? We’ll explore the information to help you decide.
What Domain Privacy Is
When you select a domain name for your website, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) requires that your domain name as well as your most current contact information get entered into a public directory called WHOIS. This information includes your name, mailing address, phone number and email address.
An international organization, ICANN had good intentions for collecting this data: it’s helped various agencies locate individuals who are infringing on copyright laws, spamming customers, or partaking in illegal activity. It’s helped law enforcement officials track down thousands of internet hackers and terrorists. But unfortunately, with WHOIS being a public database, its use can go both ways. Individuals can access your information who don’t have your best interests in mind.
Domain privacy is a service that allows your personal information to be masked, often by replacing it with the company’s own information. Even though it’s the company’s information that’s being presented on the database, you still remain the owner of your domain. How “private” your personal information is from here may depend on the company’s policies and the situation at hand. Should certain agencies formally request the information, like with a subpoena, the company will likely consent.
Protection Against Spammers
Let’s image that you’re a small business owner who works with life coaches. You’d like to get the word out about your business through a series of print sales letters, only in today’s day and age, few people in your target market are freely giving out their home address. You could use WHOIS to collect this information. While it’s not technically wrong, it can be annoying for those who have made it clear that they wish to be contacted another way, as well as startling for those who don’t realize their address can be found online. Either way, it can lead to a bad taste in someone’s mouth.
Now imagine the scenario where instead of a good-hearted business professional only looking to send a few sales letters, you got a fella who’s set on sending you dozens of emails a day about a new dating website. By choosing to set up domain privacy, you’re able to dodge anyone who’s planning to use WHOIS as their personal marketing tool.
Protection Against Hijackers & Identity Thieves
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that your website will never be hacked or that your identity will never be stolen. Over 17 million Americans had their identity stolen in 2014. Today’s hackers are using some pretty sophisticated technology. However, the more personal information you make available, the more likely you are to become a target. Just take the name, mailing address, phone number and email address provided by WHOIS, combine it with your photo and your birthday from Facebook or Twitter, add a few of your not-so-secure passwords, and a complete stranger has just about everything they need to make things difficult for you. Domain privacy isn’t a promise, but it can be a significant deterrent for anyone interested in using your personal information with poor intent.
Protection Against Consumers
If you’re expressing strong opinions online, tackling sensitive subjects, or selling a controversial product, this may be enough for you to seriously consider purchasing domain privacy. In the United States, the First Amendment gives you the right to say just about anything you want, but not everyone is going to like what you have to say. By choosing to have your personal information omitted, you’re avoiding angry phone calls, hate mail, or potentially something much worse, and giving yourself some peace of mind. Or you may find yourself on the opposite spectrum. Everyone loves what you’re doing. They can’t get enough of you. You’re practically a star. While you may love your blog’s readers or your small business customers, that doesn’t mean you want to be dealing with them all the time. In this situation, domain privacy offers you a little peace and quiet.
Protection Against Domain Name Shoppers
Let’s say that you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve been dreaming about your next big adventure for years. You’ve picked out your company name, even registered the perfect domain, and as soon as you get the right funds, the right people, and the right office space, things are going to take off. Except someone has emailed you about purchasing your domain name from you. In fact, lots of people email you about it. They beg, try to negotiate, offer money and make threats. And while a few hundred dollars or even a few thousand would look good in your purse or wallet, it’s just not worth giving up on your dream. With domain privacy, you won’t find yourself struggling to navigate these uncomfortable situations. You’re able to end the conversation before it even starts by not making your personal information available in the first place.
When Domain Privacy May Not Be The Best Choice
While we’ve made a lot of good cases on why domain privacy is a worthy investment, there are certain circumstances where it may not be the best choice for you. If your name, mailing address, phone number and email are already plastered on your website, not to mention all over the internet, then domain privacy isn’t going to do you a whole lot of good. You may find that displaying your personal information on WHOIS gives others more confidence in your business and the services you have to offer. In this case, waving a hand at domain privacy may be a good thing. If you plan to transfer your domain, you may want to hold off on setting anything up just yet. Registrars require your WHOIS information to be accurate prior to a transfer.
The Price For Domain Privacy
You may be surprised to learn that a little bit of privacy doesn’t cost all that much. At A Small Orange, we offer it for $7.00/year. If you already have an account with us, you can set it up by emailing email@example.com. If you plan to have an account with us, you’ll be presented with this option during the sign up process.