Time to Stop Using Whois Privacy?

By Daniel Scocco

If you are not familiar with the term, whois privacy is a service offered by most domain name registrars that protects your information as a domain registrant from people performing a “whois” on your domains.

Here is a screenshot of a domain using that service (it is actually one of my domains, and I am about to remove the privacy from it):

whois-privacy

And here is one of a domain without the whois privacy:

no-whois-privacy

As you can see the one with whois privacy does not reveal the information about the registrant. Instead it displays the name and contact information of DomainsByProxy, which is one of the companies offering these privacy services (you also have WhoisGuard, WhoisProtect and so on).

Until some years ago many people would recommend you to use a whois privacy service. It would protect your contact information, after all, and given the privacy issues on the web this could only be a good thing.

Well, I believe this advice is no longer valid. If you are planning to make money with your blogs or websites, or if you want to build an online business, you should not use a whois privacy service on your domains. Why? Because these days using such a service will actually reduce your credibility.

Spammers and scammers use whois privacy on all their domains, but they have a reason to do so. If you are building a legitimate website or business, why would you want or need to hide your contact information?

And I have heard many stories from experts on different segments that back up this theory. For instance, last week I heard an email marketer saying that whois privacy on the domain that is sending newsletter emails is a bad sign, and it is one of the factors that spam control organizations take into consideration.

Another day I read an article about safe online shopping, and one of the points used to verify the credibility of an online store was to check the whois information for the domain. If it was protected, the article stated, you should get suspicious. So on and so forth.

If you are creating a website as a hobby and prefer to keep your contact information private, then using a whois privacy service is fine. If you are building an online business, however, I would not recommend trying to hide your contact information.

Finally, if your reasoning for using the privacy protection is the fear of getting spam on that email address, well, the solution is as simple as creating a unique address to be used just for domain registrations (and if you are worried about your security register a business name and make it the owner of your domains).

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37 Responses to “Time to Stop Using Whois Privacy?”

  • Rajesh Kanuri

    one of my frnd suggested to use whois privacy for my websites now i ll give up that idea

  • Justin

    I think hiding your information from whois searches is kind of important. People can pull very simple scams with that information (on you that is)

    I understand that hiding you whois may make you seem like a “scammer” but in many cases it’s simply people trying to keep their information private. If you’re a company, and you’ve got landing pages assigned to a designated domain then you certainly should not be hiding your information. As you said, if you are looking to make money, then hiding your info will reduce credibility.

  • Jamaipanese

    very good advice that i agree with. I used to have privacy on my domain names but not anymore

  • BWI

    I’m not sure who would check the whois to validate credibility, but I would still agree with you on this point. A contact page alone (especially for sites representing a business), should show that information. Think Google uses privacy? Not a chance.

  • Oliver

    I agree with you on this because a lot of companies still hide their information, even though a comprehensive contact page will have their details on but I think that showing all the details on whois means that the company can be trusted.

  • PublicRecordsGuy

    “If it was protected, the article stated, you should get suspicious. So on and so forth.” is absolute CRAP. I will tell you why I use the whois privacy option. It’s included with my 1and1 accounts, plus the one site that I registered without it, I get INSANE amounts of JUNK MAIL for products I don’t want, don’t need, and didn’t request. It comes from it, because the address labels have the intentional mismatched name that I provided only on the whois record. I did it as an experiment.

    I think it’s funny that people (read…marketers) think the privacy option is bad and so forth. Not to mention, what if someone else registers your sites for you?

  • Wallace

    Absolutely i agree with what you said,
    but someone would like to protect themselves away from spams.

  • Surender Sharma

    Why should be hide our privacy if we want to become an internet celebrity?
    Is Britney Spears hide her privacy about herself ? No never. Believe me,If you want to be an internet celebrity,don’t hide your privacy for God sake.

  • Erik Shultz

    A small level of protection is better than having your information for everyone to see it at anytime. If you need to find me, goto my website and send me an email.

    I wish I could make money off my blog someday, but it is not really on my mind right now. For now, my whois privacy service is perfect.

  • Arwen Taylor

    I appreciate the information and thank you for sharing it. But, I’m sorry, I don’t agree. And much of my disagreement has to do with personal safety. I’m a single female, living with an elderly woman. The last thing I need is some crazy person showing up on my doorstep uninvited or getting scam calls to my phone.

    Money is not everything. If and when I get a business address then I might reconsider. Until then, I’ll take the chance at losing some business because people can’t get my personal info from my Whois entry.

    Also, I think it is a little irresponsible to tell people to not use Whois without informing them of the inherent risks in removing it. Safety and privacy is a major concern especially in this age of identity theft and stalking. I think this article could be more balanced by giving the pros and cons of each option.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @PublicRecordsGuy and Wallace, spam problems? This is a simple as creating an email address that you only use on the registrar info…

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Arwen, I believe at the moment you start using the Internet and playing with websites you are already giving away a great deal of your privacy. You would be surprised at the amount of info people can get from you, even if you try to hide it.

    That being said I agree with you I should have been more balanced in the tone, so I tweaked the title to reflect that.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  • Josh

    I like this in theory, but it needs validation.

    Using statements like “…and I have heard many stories from experts on different segments that back up this theory…” need names, dates, footnotes. I’m curious WHO is saying this, not just that they said it. What were the stories—recount parts so I know they apply here.

    Again, I appreciate you sharing this valuable knowledge, but I won’t implement this until I know more about which industry leaders or experts agree, etc.

  • Arwen Taylor

    I appreciate that Daniel. Thank you.

    “@Arwen, I believe at the moment you start using the Internet and playing with websites you are already giving away a great deal of your privacy. You would be surprised at the amount of info people can get from you, even if you try to hide it.”

    That’s true but at the same time, I like to think it was my choice to give people that information based on my interaction with them and how much I trust them to have it vs. having my information out there for all to see.

    Maybe its a case of toe-may-toe vs toe-mah-toe. But thanks for the discussion anyways.

  • David Walker

    I guess most people use whois privacy for the reasons given above by Arwen Taylor and PublicRecordsGuy, but is it really that hard to get someone’s information over the Net? The emphasis by Daniel on removing whois is on sites where you plan to make money or when building an online business. Would you rather not be seen by spammers and be considered one of them? Spammers can be gotten rid of but can your credibility be restored?

  • Arwen Taylor

    @DavidWalker

    Credibility can be gained and lost in any number of ways. I don’t think that whether or not your Whois information is publicly available should be the litmus test for deciding if someone is credible. A person with public Whois information can be just as shady as someone who has that information hidden. And a person with hidden Whois information can be just as credible as a person who chooses to expose that data.

    There are many ways to determine credibility and I think Whois should only be one of those elements and a very small part at that. Especially since Whois information can be faked. A scammer can easily make themselves look legit by turning the privacy off and entering a fake name, address and phone number.

    Just because Icann says that they are not allowed to do that does not mean scammers obey their rules. And the only way Icann catches them is if someone reports them for having fraudulent information. Then I think the penalty is they take your domain name away. Out of the millions of domains on the internet, realistically how often does that happen?

    Sorry to jump on my soapbox but privacy is one of my hot buttons issues.

  • Dave Doolin | Website In A Weekend

    It’s not that hard to register a business and have the business hold the domain. That gives both personal privacy and public transparency.

  • Riley

    I have to disagree with you. Having been the victim of an Internet Stalker, you have to take the time to protect yourself.

    Any valid business inquiry will be looking to contact you directly, not use “stealth research” per se. Granted, people want a certain about of transparency, but in a world where online scams and psychos thrive, there is no need to add fuel to the fire.

  • Matt Felten

    The first domain I bought I did not have Whois Privacy on and I would get junk mail mailed to me all the time, Telling me my domain is expiring and for $150 they’ll re-register it and give me “domain insurance.” I had a couple say that my domain was actually owned by another company and that for $XXXX they would let me use it. All sorts of garbage.

    Honestly, I’d rather have to build credibility for the small percentage of people who knows about / how to use Whois information, then have to deal with junk mail.

  • Tia Marie

    I have to respectfully disagree with this viewpoint. Businesses generally have accepted methods of contact already on their page. If you find yourself trying to use their WHOIS information to contact them about an issue or business inquiry perhaps you should be rethinking why you are doing it that way.

    Now, if you’re doing business with a site who has made it absolutely impossible to find any method of contact with them in the least, then yes, I believe that their credibility might be called into a bit of question. However, not every website wants to be this open, and in some cases for very good reason.

    Take http://wikileaks.org/ – For example. They have given a great deal of contact information for you to reach them, but they also use privacy on their WHOIS and for good reason. Wikileaks of course is an extreme case.

    Just some thoughts.

  • PublicRecordsGuy

    @Daniel not only SPAM, but real life junk mail that I spend time sifting through. If I want someones service, I’ll seek them out, I don’t like having so much wasted paper and ink sitting in my physical mailbox. I get a lot, then I have to go opt out and so forth, when it’s all avoided when I just leave the domain by proxy checked, and people can’t scrape the whois data to mass market my mailing address.

    Just my experience.

  • Eric C

    Great analysis on this topic. I’m going to have to check my domain name.

  • Dana @ Online Knowledge

    Lucky me, i do not hide my data from first time i have my domain. Yeah, there may be some people that think we hide something if we do not present clear information in our who is.

  • Amy

    I think this is valid for merchants. But if you are an individual who blogs (sometimes personal stuff) and make money promoting other people’s products, I think you should take care not to give people access to your personal information. You do need to think about your security.

  • Kent @ Leawo

    I would rather not let my private information leak to unwanted hands. For months, the spams have cost me efforts to clear up. My mail has been stuffed with tens of thousands spams. Though the number has declined due to spam filtering, they could never be less annoying.

    I think we could find a good balance if the whois privacy company could offer the information only to the people who are not spammers or advertisers. People who want to inquire whois information from whois privacy company should also provide authentic identifications. This act could significantly foil spamming and advertising, because they have to obtain contact information under serious supervision. And in this way could the company’s credit not be harmed or suspected.

  • Jacinta Dean

    Hi there :),

    Personally, I do like the privacy settings. At the moment my blogging is only part time so I am not interested in all the unnecessary marketing and phone calls. It is bad enough having door knockers and telemarketers to contend with.

    When I am ready to become a full time business I will register my contact details on my website so if anyone truly wants to contact me then they can.

    This is the first time I have visited your site. I found it through a site though a site so to speak 😆

    I have marked you in my Google Reader. I will see you back here soon! :mrgreen:

    Jacinta 😀
    (An Aussie mum trying to create a business online while her 2 year old daughter sleeps!)

  • Ashok Kumar

    You absolutely correct. We are exposing our knowledge with fellow people but we can not interact with Internet users if we hide by disabling our information.

  • Adam Baird

    How many of our potential readers/customers are honestly checking the whois before buying?

    I’m a fan of maintaining as much privacy as I can. I just don’t think that using whois privacy is really going to drive away tons of potential business.

  • Steve

    I agree with everything you said, except for one thing. Not everyone can afford the luxury of having a physical office building. So, people who do not want to expose their home address to the world, should rightfully protect that information.

    Can you imagine some creepy character showing up at your door because he was able to get your personal home address via whois?

  • articlescreen

    Thanks for clearing out many things like whois privacy and what that means…And I think most of the customers are not thinking about that. But I will form now on…Good informative blog.

  • Web Marketing Tips

    Certainly if you want to establish yourself a brand than you should put yourself in front not hiding behind those proxy kind of names.

    But yes if you have a website which does not have anything to deal with common people and no need to show your details than keeping yourself behind those proxy name is a good idea.

    Its totally depends on the nature of business …

  • Stephanie

    I’ve found that I prefer privacy. With 3 young children at home, I don’t need to have my address or phone number out there. The address issue is easily enough taken care of with a P.O. Box, and phone could be handled with a VOIP number I suppose, but I haven’t taken that step yet. Domain privacy is simpler.

  • Pallab

    The email address is shown in a manner that is fairly easy to decipher for most bots with OCR. Once thats done a spam bot can harvest millions of addresses in a day from whois.
    That’s why I use the privacy guard feature offered by my domain name reseller.

    If anyone wishes to contact me he or she can do so using my blog’s contact form, linkedin, twitter, facebook, SU etc.
    So, I dont really buy your argument.

  • Caroline Goddard

    Nope. No way. I agree with the above-responder who said it is a personal safety issue.

    Your advice may hold true for a business with an actual office, or even a business located in a home where customers/clients visit. But I am a freelance writer and photographer who works on location only, and there is absolutely no reason why I should put my personal home address out there for random people to see. My clients know it, because it is on my invoice. Otherwise there is absolutely no reason for it to be out there. There are plenty of other ways for legitimate customers-to-be to verify that I am who I say I am.

  • Sam

    Seriously? Since when did normal average consumers started checking the who is of a site to check its credibility?

    Even I only check it if I want to buy a domain or want to see when it was registered…

  • Howard

    For a thorough, if somewhat biased, discussion of this topic, complete with references, go to Dynadot.com and click on “privacy”. With their privacy service they show your name, but not your contact info for $2.00 a year. They call it a mail forwarding system. I have my website hosted with them. It is a simple site, but I don’t come anywhere near to using the disk and bandwidth provided for a ridiculously low price—I think it is 11.99 per year! Good CA based phone support also. I don’t get much spam, but I don’t know what I would get without their “privacy” service either. My website is Woodstairways.com. I am a Seattle area finish carpentry contractor.

  • Jerrick

    i think even for business purpose also need whois protect service
    because customer will look for your detail in your website such as your.tel or contact us. And not use whois. Only spammer and those competitor will use whois to look for you.

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