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Domain privacy is a service offered by a number of domain name registrars. A user buys privacy from the company, who in turn replaces the user’s info in the WHOIS with the info of a forwarding service (for email and sometimes postal mail, done by a proxy server) such as “Domains by Proxy, Inc.” or eNom’s “Whois Privacy Protection Service”.
However, this is not true anonymity:
- Personal information is typically collected by these registrars to provide the service. And to some, registrars like Domains by Proxy take little persuasion to release so-called ‘private’ information to the world, requiring only a phone request or cease and desist letter.
- Others, however, treat privacy more seriously, and host domain names offshore, even using e-gold or money orders in transactions so that the registrar has no knowledge of the personal information about the domain name owner in the first place (which would otherwise be transmitted along with credit card transactions).
Note some domain extensions have privacy caveats:
- In March 2005, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has said that all owners of .us domains will not have the option of keeping their information private, and that it must be made public.
- As of June 10, 2008, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority no longer posted registration details of individuals associated with .ca domains.
Currently the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) broadly requires that the mailing address, phone number and e-mail address of those owning/managing a domain name to be made publicly available through the “WHOIS” directories. However, that policy enables spammers, direct marketers, identity thieves, or other attackers to loot the directory for personal information about these people. Plus it enables easy access to these personal details by anyone (as someone upset or concerned with the use of the domain, or just researching these people and names), regardless of whether such access is justified. Although ICANN has been exploring changing WHOIS to enable greater privacy, there is a lack of consensus among major stakeholders as to what type of change should be made.
Privacy protection at a few registrars:
[Source: Wikipedia:Domain privacy]