Join 3,518 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


When registering a domain name, should I pay - annually - to hide these details from the Whois database?
July 6, 2009 5:16 AM   Subscribe

When registering a domain name, should I pay - annually - to hide these details from the Whois database?

I'm in the process of registering 2 domain names (with fasthosts.co.uk/ukreg) and have been presented with the following option:

Hide your contact details for this domain
£4.99 pa per domain
Activate domain privacy to stop these contact details being displayed in the publically-accessible WhoIs database.

£10/year isn't a massive amount of money, but it isn't nothing. Should I tick this option? Do people, generally? Do you? What am I getting by doing it, and what am I risking if I don't? Is there a serious risk of identity fraud? (FWIW, the domain names I'm registering would both have my full name in them.)

Thanks!
posted by Kirn to Technology (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you don't hide your information, you will get a great deal of email spam to the visible email address, and you'll get junk mail to the physical address for years. And, of course, you are providing your name and full address to anyone who does a WHOIS on your domains. So, yes, you probably want the anonymizer.

Namecheap offers a similar solution, WhoisGuard, for a lot less money. But if you're registering .uk names, they may not be able to do it. AFAIK, registrars can only do this for their own customers, not random domains on the Net.

10 pounds a year seems extremely overpriced. I think it's three bucks for WhoisGuard.
posted by Malor at 5:41 AM on July 6, 2009


Do you want people to be able to identify your website content with you personally through via whois database? If not, then pay for the privacy feature--Doing so may also protect you from junk mail.

However, if your domain name registration and/or website content identify you anyway—especially if this is to be a business or professional website where you will publish your contact information, there is little point imo to paying for the privacy function.
posted by applemeat at 5:46 AM on July 6, 2009


Unless it's completely unlike other modern registrars you can set the WHOIS info to any name and email address you like - it doesn't have to be your personal information but whoever might be the agent for your company. That's what you're paying the "service" fee for - so that someone will say "oh, okay, put my name down instead of yours and I'll forward the email." It ought to be a real email address that at least gets forwarded to you, though.

I never pay for any service like this I use a pseudonym for the WHOIS info, and in about ten years of actively hosting web sites I've had no problems.
posted by XMLicious at 5:53 AM on July 6, 2009


I've never had a problem with significant spam or unwanted attention from my registration info, and I've run quite popular sites with a large following.

Unless it's important to you personally to stay private, I wouldn't worry about it too much.
posted by glider at 6:05 AM on July 6, 2009


I didn't hide my information. Spam - well, don't really care, as I used my gmail address as the visible mail address and the spam filtering there works quite well. Snail mail - definitely not, my real-life spam levels are still surprisingly low. Do you have any particular interest in keeping yourself hidden from readers/users of the domains you're buying? If not, it may well just not be worth it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:06 AM on July 6, 2009


Unless it's completely unlike other modern registrars you can set the WHOIS info to any name and email address you like[.]

You physically can do this, but unless the OP's registrar is completely unlike other modern registrars, listing fake information on a domain registration violates ICANN rules and could create trouble for OP in the event he/she were ever involved in domain dispute with another party. Don’t list fake information.
posted by applemeat at 6:14 AM on July 6, 2009


Spam filtering takes care of the spam (which you're going to get anyhow because whose email address is a secret?) and I get maybe one or two pieces of physical junk mail a year because of the registration.

On the flip side, I knew someone who used made up information for the domain, then it expired and he couldn't prove that he was the original owner to get it back since he had fake contact information in there.

YMMV.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:15 AM on July 6, 2009


Just a heads up that it is technically illegal to put fake ICANN records. Not that this has stopped anyone I know.
posted by cj_ at 6:27 AM on July 6, 2009


I use Dreamhost and they offer this service for free.
posted by wfrgms at 6:53 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a dozen or so domains with my address visible; have had for years. While I do get some spam at the address listed in WHOIS, it's not appreciably more than I get at any of my other email addresses. I also get a small amount of snail-mail spam from sketchy domain registrars every time one comes due for renewal.

The only real reason to use this sort of service is if your website contains content that you'd prefer Internet Sleuths™ not be able to easily trace back to you.
posted by ook at 7:12 AM on July 6, 2009


You physically can do this, but unless the OP's registrar is completely unlike other modern registrars, listing fake information on a domain registration violates ICANN rules and could create trouble for OP in the event he/she were ever involved in domain dispute with another party. Don’t list fake information.

If you're talking about information that is intended to deceive somehow I'm sure you're right. But of course you can list contact information for an agent who is a point of contact, whether that's an individual or a corporate entity; that's not a "fake" record. Otherwise how could anyone offer this service?

The link you provided applemeat goes to a page that doesn't say anything at all like what you're claiming it says. It doesn't talk about the validity of the registration information at all. In fact it specifies that contact information be provided in a response from the domain holder (who is identified as an "it") to the initial inquiry about a dispute rather than specifying any authority of the data provided by the whois query. As written it puts the onus on the individual or group raising the dispute to have made repeated efforts to contact every email address, postal address, and fax number provided in the records. (By the way, you can have multiple contacts listed, such as a separate Technical and Administrative contact. I use this for listing separate phone numbers and email addresses via different services for redundancy, e.g. one via Google Mail as a backup for my corporate mail address.)

You definitely don't want to provide deceptive information or stuff that wouldn't be an actual valid way of contacting you. And if a future dispute is a concern - if you're going to be in a position where you absolutely need to have those specific domain names for a business entity or something - you'll definitely want to have whatever name you use specified as a DBA or other alias for your company or personal business. (In the states in the U.S. I've done business in this is a small matter of paperwork, you just have to remember to do it - no more expensive than the fees they want to charge and more worthwhile.)

But you should not interpret this as meaning that unless you pay them the fee they're going to be compelled to dump your full name and phone number into a public database; that's what they're trying to scare you into believing because however much the fee is it's undoubtedly pure profit for them. Registrars have been notorious for sketchy business practices like this and several were sued out of existence during the past decade.
posted by XMLicious at 7:17 AM on July 6, 2009


(One note - in that 2nd to last paragraph I don't mean to imply that using an established business name somehow guarantees or establishes rights over a domain name. I'm just saying that if you need rights like that it's prudent to establish the name of the agent in that manner.)
posted by XMLicious at 7:22 AM on July 6, 2009


Thanks everybody. I decided to skip the privacy protection as few of you seemed concerned, but didn't put down any fake details.
posted by Kirn at 7:37 AM on July 6, 2009


I had a bad experience a couple years ago where someone ended up with the old cell phone I used to register my oldish domains. I hadn't updated the contact info in years. I ended up getting some threatening phone calls meant for the new cell phone owner. The guy had used the old domain info to find my work number. I plan on hiding all the info in the future.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:54 AM on July 6, 2009


At one point I owned about 10 domain names with my real information in the WHOIS. I got a few spam emails asking me to sign up for "premium domain services" from companies that had nothing to do with the domains I owned, and I even got a few pieces of snail mail saying I owed money to some Internet registry service to "certify" my domain name. After that, I took all my real info out of the WHOIS. You're not technically supposed to do that, but my registrar didn't really seem to care (not that they had any way to find out I did it in the first place). I'm not so sure it's "illegal" to do this, as some have said.
posted by joshrholloway at 8:59 AM on July 6, 2009


Certain rules pertain to .uk domains. The registered name is ALWAYS visible (even with domain privacy), unless you register as a company, in which case the company name will be visible.
posted by Solomon at 10:05 AM on July 6, 2009


Just more datapoints here:

- You will get spam from the visible addresses.
- Dreamhost will do this for free, but I doubt they're a UK registrar
- GMail is perfectly sufficient for blocking the spam you'll get if you leave it visible
- That price is exorbitant for the service offered (DH is free)
posted by mysterious1der at 1:56 PM on July 6, 2009


« Older What should I do when the job ...   |  Have you ever stayed in a holi... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.