WHOIS that? It's nobody...
January 8, 2008 9:14 AM   Subscribe

I recently registered a .co.uk domain name. I've since found out that my full name is visible on a WHOIS. What can I do to hide it?

I've contacted Nominet (the registrar for all .uk names) and they've said that it is possible to change the name by registering it to someone else, but I need to provide proof that the person exists.

Basically, I just want no personally identifying information to be available online. I don't mind a completely wrong address being available, or whatever. Just assume for the purposes of this question that I'm extremely paranoid. Ahem.

1] Would it be simplest to pay a friend to "take over" the domain name? Nominet are requesting a utility bill as proof that the other person exists, so obviously it has to be someone real.

2] Could I register the domain as a business, but put no personal information in the business address box? I'd just give it a try, but I don't want to mess up again.

Are there any other options I should consider?

I'd like to be able to use the name, but if there is no way of hiding myself, then I'm prepared to not-use it. Nominet do have a privacy option for individuals, but it only hides the address, not the name.
posted by Don-da-lah to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd like to speak up for the ability of people to find out who owns domains by using whois. It's a good thing, in the same way that business registration records contain the names of the owners, and so on. Lots of people sabotage that, and in .com registries, it's basically accepted, which sucks for people trying to stop spam and fraud sites. Please don't contribute to this.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:21 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Maybe try registering, or re-registering, through a different organisation. Try registering, say, your .co.uk via a us registrar. They may not demand the same level of identification; i can scarcely believe they'd insist on a utility bill.
posted by londongeezer at 9:28 AM on January 8, 2008

Also i find if you fill in the contact names as something like [Company Name] Webmaster, that's usually accepted by US registrars.
posted by londongeezer at 9:29 AM on January 8, 2008

WHOIS protection is a fairly standard feature with domain registration. Who did you register with?
posted by missmagenta at 9:41 AM on January 8, 2008

They have a faq on these items. It looks like changing it to a business would not allow you to hide the address, which wouldn't help you.
posted by smackfu at 9:55 AM on January 8, 2008

Also, for other respondents: the top-level registrar sets the rules. Trying to apply .com or .org rules to .co.uk is as useless as applying US laws to situations in the UK.
posted by smackfu at 9:56 AM on January 8, 2008

Netrillium register all domains using their contact information rather than yours.
posted by fire&wings at 10:14 AM on January 8, 2008

There are lots of privacy-protection services for .com domains; I can't believe such things don't exist for .co.uk. Basically they have their information put down in WHOIS, and then (for a certain amount of money every year) forward all email and postal mail received to you.

Generally you sign up for this sort of thing while registering the domain, but maybe you can sign up for it afterwards and just change the WHOIS data. (These people offer it, and there must be many others given how low-budget it looks.)

Worst case scenario, you might need to transfer the domain to a registrar who offers privacy protection. After a quick Googling ("domain privacy protection co.uk") it seems like there are several companies offering this in the UK. 1stEURO is one.

As for the whole 'sanctity of WHOIS' argument, I think it's beyond hope at this point. WHOIS is yet another idea left over from the early days of the internet, when things were a lot different. If we were designing the network now, I'm not sure it would seem like a particularly bright idea to have every domain-owner's real name and address sitting out in a plaintext, easily-harvestable/abusable format. A better solution would be some sort of pseudonymous encryption-based system, but we're now stuck with what exists, and the anonymizing services are probably the best solution for most people.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:27 AM on January 8, 2008

Nominet specifically have an 'opt-out' system for domains registered to individuals, which will remove your personal information from the WHOIS results.

You should be able to just log in to the Nominet site using the details you received with your registration certificate, and choose the 'opt-out' option.

I'm very surprised that the person you spoke to at Nominet didn't mention this.
posted by chrismear at 10:43 AM on January 8, 2008

Sorry, ignore me, I missed that you wanted the name hidden as well.
posted by chrismear at 10:45 AM on January 8, 2008

Joakim Ziegler makes a good point in that many people use Whois to check the legitimacy of a site, especially business-related ones.


On the other hand, I can understand someone wanting a personal site's WHOIS to be private, especially when there are also plenty of bad people and bots that collect WHOIS information for spamming and other dire purposes. In this day and age, identity theft is right around the corner.

There are a couple (legal) ways to do this: By proxy or just using more generic means like a P.O. box or forwarding address or "care of" company address. Be careful not to make up a fake address or name, though, as that's illegal and would get your domain terminated, as far as I know.

There are certain issues to consider if you want to use a proxy service as others might suggest: A proxy registrar means that the registrar puts in their own contact information while keeping yours private. But there have been issues where, if you want to switch registrars, the company may make things difficult for you. There are proxy services that are not registrars, too, but you will certainly need to be careful with those in the same way you would a registrar with proxy powers. And you're going to need to give your private information to someone regardless.

posted by Ky at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2008

If you register .co.uk via verio, for example, it offers you "private registration" for a further $8.95 per year.
posted by londongeezer at 11:57 AM on January 8, 2008


However, one of my domains has had the address of "No postal spam, thanks" for many years without problem. The simplest answer for you would be to transfer to the domain to a registrar who offers the kind of obfuscation you desire, but this has the side effect of an ersatz transfer to a third party, which could cause ownership problems in certain rare instances.
posted by rhizome at 12:05 PM on January 8, 2008

One other consideration: isn't there a way of looking up the previous registrants of a domain name? I'm sure I've seen a 'historical WHOIS' service somewhere before. This means that, even if you do transfer the registration to another individual, your original registration details may still show up with a historical search.
posted by blag at 1:11 PM on January 8, 2008

I used the $15 Domains by proxy option when I registered with Godaddy.
posted by exhilaration at 7:51 PM on January 8, 2008

I have my host's name and address for all the contacts.
posted by loiseau at 9:03 PM on January 8, 2008

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