What is WHOIS privacy and do you need it
For those of you that are registering your first domain you might have noticed an option to get whois privacy and wondered what it’s all about and whether you really need to shell out extra cash for it. So let’s go over exactly what it is, why you might want it, and why if you do want it you should probably get it from the start.
What is WHOIS Privacy?
The WHOIS database is a collection of information about who owns domain names. When you register a new domain your personal information (full name, email address, physical address and phone number) gets added into that database which is then freely available online.
There are a variety of websites out there that allow you to perform WHOIS searches on domain names, and for any domains without WHOIS privacy the search results will show the owner of the domains personal details.
Getting WHOIS privacy means that you pay a yearly fee to have dummy data published in the WHOIS search results rather than your own precious personal details.
Here is the data that comes up for this domain (techtipswithtea.com) which has WHOIS privacy when you perform a WHOIS search.
Because of the WHOIS privacy my personal information is safe and instead some dummy data is published in it’s place in the search results.
The Pros of WHOIS Privacy
For a lot of people just the idea of having their personal information out there freely available online will make them uneasy. But let’s break down the reasons why getting WHOIS privacy is a good idea.
We’ve all dealt with out fair share of spam because we’ve put our email address into the wrong form and it’s been sold off onto some marketing list. If you let your email be published as part of the WHOIS data for your domain then prepare yourself for an influx of spam.
There are companies that make their money by harvesting email addresses to add to a list, then that list is sold off to mass marketing emailers. If you forgo WHOIS privacy then chances are your email address will end up on one of those lists and you’ll start getting unsolicited emails.
You’ll also end up getting targeted emails offering web design services or search engine optimisation. Sadly a lot of these emails will be scams and if you’re a new domain owner it can be difficult to tell the good from the bad.
Getting WHOIS privacy means you can avoid having your email account filling up with junk before you’ve even launched your site allowing you to spend your time focusing on more important things.
The same can happen with your phone number and address and you could find yourself dealing with cold callers and junk snail mail.
Controlling User Contact
You’ll probably have spent some time setting up specific email accounts to filter the different reasons people are contacting you, chances are you’ll want anything to do with business going to one email account, support queries going to another, and general contact going to another.
Without WHOIS privacy there’ll likely be a high percentage of emails, phone calls, and possibly even snail mail coming in to the details you’ve registered along with your domain rather than to your preferred contact details.
Having WHOIS privacy means that you’ve got more control over which email addresses are out there for the world to see, and hopefully the majority of your emails will end up going to right email box.
For your phone number and home address, chances are you don’t want people contacting you on those, especially if you are running a business with it’s own phone number and address for people to contact you on.
Hide your other Domains
If you run multiple sites then you might not want all of them linked together, and leaving your sites without WHOIS privacy will allow people to see all the domains that you own.
While this doesn’t sound like a big problem, imagine if you say something controversial on one of your sites that gets people riled up, you could find that your other sites suffer the consequences once it gets out that you run those other sites.
Using a Pen Name
Some bloggers feel more comfortable blogging under a pen name, but, you’re not able to register a domain with a pen name. If you try then you could find yourself in a sticky situation down the line.
The reason people generally use pen names is to keep their real name private. Without WHOIS privacy anyone that can do a quick search online is going to be able to uncover your real identity.
Keeping Personal Separate
A lot of businesses perform searches on potential employees and in some cases you might not want them finding out about your online presence.
Part of the joy of blogging is being able to speak freely about something you are passionate about. If you decided you wanted to run a website about your love of snails, how would that affect your potential at getting a job if it was found by your employer.
The information that is available via WHOIS data is enough to start building a pretty good identity to steal. Armed with that data and a little extra snooping around social media you could find that any potential identity thief has enough to go on to start wreaking havoc as you.
Hopefully none of you suffer from the affliction of stalkers, but if you do the chances are you’ll be wanting to keep your personal details well under wraps. WHOIS privacy allows you to do that.
If you manage to stir up some controversy online you could find people go out of their way to cause problems for you and essentially become a type of stalker. You don’t want to end up with random pizza deliveries turning up to your home address and middle of the night phone calls or if you run a business an irate customer knocking on your door.
The Cons of WHOIS Privacy
Now that we’ve gone over the pros of getting WHOIS privacy, let’s talk about some of the cons.
Some people seem to think that if you aren’t willing to have your personal information out there as the owner of your domain then you must be up to something shady.
Nowadays it does seem like people are more understanding about the real reasons why people online want to protect their privacy. Chances are not many people are going to check your domains WHOIS data as a way to decide if you’re dodgy or not.
Extra Yearly Cost
While the yearly cost isn’t huge, generally it costs less than £1 a month to have WHOIS privacy for your domain, if you’re starting out it can seem like a lot considering your new blog isn’t earning you any money yet and you still have to shell out for the domain and hosting.
Personally I feel like it’s worth the £1 a month for peace of mind that my personal information is protected.
Why you should get WHOIS privacy from the start
You might think that you can start your blog without paying extra for privacy, then get it down the line if your site becomes popular or you feel like having your information out there might pose some kind of problem, but it’s better to get it from the start if you’re going to get it at all. Ultimately if your plan is to get it later on it could end up costing you more money than it would have if you’d paid for the WHOIS privacy from the beginning.
Reputable WHOIS search sites will update your WHOIS information if you pay for privacy with your registrar usually within 24-48 hours.
The moment you register your domain, your details are out there, and there are websites that specialise in republishing this data on their own sites. They make money by creating lists of these details to sell on to mass marketers, and their second source of income comes from charging yearly fees to people whose details have ended up on the site.
These unscrupulous sites won’t update your information if you pay for WHOIS privacy with your registrar like the reputable ones will. Instead you’ll need to pay an additional yearly fee to get your details taken down.
Even once your details are off those sites, it’s still not impossible for someone to find your information by using sites that specialise in letting people look up older versions of webpages.
Is it worth it?
The pros of having WHOIS privacy for your domain far outweigh the cons in my books. Even though it’s an additional yearly cost, when you consider the actual expense per month it’s less than a cup of coffee. I’d give up a cuppa a month to have peace of mind and keep my email junk free.
Aside from anything else this can all suck away at your time. If you’re opening your email account to a tonne of junk emails and before you can get started you have to sort the good from the bad, that’s all wasted time. You know what they say, time is money, far better to be spending time building your brand or blog than dealing with unsolicited marketing.