Blogging,  Cybersecurity

The ultimate guide to domain privacy: why do you need WHOIS privacy?

Domain privacy can protect you against phishing, identity theft, financial fraud, doxxing, and harassment, just to name a few risks you’re at when you buy a domain name for your blog, business, or even personal website.

Domain privacy, or WHOIS privacy, shields your personal information from public access in the WHOIS database. It enhances online security, reduces spam, and safeguards your identity.

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Did you know that the domain name you bought for your e-commerce, business website, or even hobby blog can expose your personal and sensitive information such as your home address and phone number to anyone who’s able to make a quick and easy search online?

Keep reading to learn why you must opt for private domain registration to protect your online privacy.

Related: Why is the WHOIS database public (and how to hide your personal information)

Table of contents

The dark side of public WHOIS

WHOIS is a database that retains identifying information about domain names and their owners. Seeing that anyone can access this database for free at any time, most people primarily use WHOIS to identify and contact domain owners and verify domain availability.

Although WHOIS is indeed essential for internet transparency, both privacy and security concerns emerge from this publicly available personal information.

Just think about it for a while: anyone with access to your domain name can discover, with just a few clicks, your full name, your home/business address, and your phone number.

To put it in another way, with all this identifying information, a scammer could commit all sorts of financial frauds in your name or even craft convincing phishing emails or messages to scam you.

Another key point is that you could even fall victim to doxxing. Armed with your address, criminals may put your safety (and that of your family) at risk.

What is domain privacy and do I need it?

Domain privacy is a service offered by most domain registrars to protect the online privacy of domain owners, be they individuals or organizations, by preventing their sensitive information from being publicly accessible by anyone who knows how to perform a WHOIS lookup.

See, when you buy a domain name, the domain provider requires your contact information, including your name, address, email, and phone number. 

The point often overlooked here is that any domain name buyer could assume all this information is only required to complete the purchasing process. Just like when you buy anything else online, you need to provide your personal information as the buyer and credit card owner, right? 

But the thing is, when you provide your sensitive information to register your new domain name, this information becomes public and easily accessible online.

Domain privacy, also known as WHOIS privacy or private domain registration, ensures your online anonymity, safeguards your security, and prevents unwanted solicitations. With this in mind, domain privacy is an essential layer of protection for bloggers, business owners, and anyone else who owns a domain name.

Is domain privacy free? What is the private domain registration cost?

The cost and availability of domain privacy services vary based on the domain registrar, buyer’s location, and the final dot of a domain name (known as TLD).

Some domain name providers might offer domain privacy for free included in all their domain names available for purchasing regardless of where you live.

As an example, DreamHost has WHOIS privacy available for free to anyone who buys a domain name from them. Also, if you sign up for any of DreamHost’s web hosting yearly plans, they even give a domain name + domain privacy for free.

Differing from DreamHost, SiteGround has domain privacy available for purchase as a separate add-on. In this case, you’d have to pay $12-$24 per year to have an anonymous domain registration.

Now, if you’re an individual or entity based in the EU, your personal information is probably already protected by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which governs data protection and privacy in the European Union.

Just to be sure, it’s a good idea to contact your domain registrar’s customer support for clarification about their WHOIS privacy services and any specific policies for EU citizens. Better safe than sorry, as I always like to say.

Ultimately, if you don’t live in an EU country, either investing in a domain name provider that offers private domain registration for free or has it available for purchase for an affordable price is equally worth it to reduce online privacy risks.

How do I know if my domain is private?

To check if your domain name registration is private, you can visit a WHOIS lookup service and enter your own domain name in the search box. You can use popular WHOIS lookup websites such as ICANN WHOIS or DomainTools.

A WHOIS lookup is an online search query that reveals information about a domain name, including its owner's contact details, registration date, and the domain registrar responsible for it.

After that, you should look for the “Registrar” or “Registrar URL” information. If you have private domain registration, the registrar’s contact information should be displayed instead of your personal details. It may also mention “Privacy Protection” or a similar term.

Another option is to contact your domain name provider directly via email, chat, or call to ask if your domain registration has WHOIS privacy protection. Alternatively, you could look for the information yourself within your account dashboard to verify if domain privacy protection is enabled for your domain.

Domain privacy for bloggers: safeguarding your online identity

More often than not, full-time and part-time bloggers operate their business, side hustle, and hobby blogs as individuals – not as LLCs (Limited Liability Companies), for example. Under these circumstances, they probably will use their own home address and personal phone number to register their blog domain names. 

As a result, without domain privacy to shield their personal details, bloggers are constantly at risk of identity theft, spam, and scam attempts such as the popular phishing scams.

Domain privacy is crucial for bloggers as it safeguards their personal information and reduces spam and harassment. Private domain registration allows bloggers to focus on quality content – or the fun side of blogging, in case they just blog as a hobby – and engagement without the distraction of spam and potential security risks.

Just in case, using an online address service such as US Global Mail to have a publicly legal business address to display may also help shield your online privacy and security.

Related: US Global Mail Review: Is this virtual address worth it?

Private domain registration for e-commerce: protecting customer trust and data

Domain privacy can prevent cybercriminals from easily obtaining the contact information of the e-commerce site owner. It significantly increases the difficulty for fraudsters to impersonate the business and launch phishing attacks. This ensures that they cannot pose as the legitimate site owner and deceive customers into sharing sensitive information.

Here are some fraudulent tactics cybercriminals impersonating business owners use to deceive clients:

  • Initiating illegal transactions in an attempt to charge clients for fake products or services by using the business owner’s name.
  • Appropriating the business’s reputation to make dishonest transactions appear legitimate, such as unauthorized charges for subscriptions or shipping fees, for example.
  • Creating fake websites and emails mimicking the business owner’s branding in order to request clients for sensitive data such as credit card details.

Consequently, these deceptive actions committed by impersonators can damage a legitimate business’s reputation, causing long-lasting financial losses. After all, who would want to purchase anything from a business that allows its clients to be scammed? As someone who takes her privacy and security very seriously, I certainly wouldn’t.

And I’m not the only one, that’s for sure. As data privacy statistics for 2023 point out:

  • 9 out of 10 Americans consider their online privacy to be an important issue
  • 85% of global adults want to do more to protect their online privacy.
  • Two-thirds of global consumers feel that tech companies have too much control over their data.
  • Less than one-quarter of American smartphone users feel in control of their personal data online.

That is, in these times when everyone has already heard about the problems concerning internet privacy and big tech companies, consumers are more concerned about their sensitive information than ever. In effect, it’s of utmost importance for businesses to make sure their clients are safe from data leaches and cybercriminals.

That’s why implementing strong security measures to your e-commerce, including domain privacy and email authentication, is essential to protect businesses and clients from fraudulent activities.

Does anonymous domain registration affect SEO?

Although considering domain privacy for online security and privacy reasons is important, it does not have a direct impact on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) rankings.

When developing your overall SEO strategy, factors such as user experience, quality content, relevant keywords, and website structure and performance are what you should be looking for.

All that being said, some benefits of private domain registration can be applied to your SEO performance, although said benefits are relatively indirect and minor compared to the aforementioned SEO factors. Here are some of them:

  • Protection against content theft

Not a direct SEO factor per se, but protecting your original content can help maintain the individuality and authority of your site, which are crucial for SEO rankings. To help you with that, domain privacy can deter malicious individuals looking to duplicate your website’s content.

  • Helps you save time by reducing spam and unwanted contacts

Allowing your personal information to be publicly accessible in the WHOIS database can lead to an influx of spam emails and calls, not to mention physical mail.

Anonymous domain registration, by hiding your personal information, protects you from spam, which allows you to focus on writing content that converts instead of dealing with spammers – and possibly scammers as well.

  • Enhances Security

A compromised website can negatively affect your SEO, especially if it’s used for malicious purposes or if Google detects malware on your site.

Security measures such as domain privacy help safeguard your website from hacking attempts and other security threats.

  • Reduces risk of negative SEO

Some unscrupulous competitors engage in negative SEO tactics, such as building spammy backlinks or filing false copyright complaints against your site. Domain privacy can make it more challenging for competitors to identify you, reducing the likelihood of such attacks.

The legal considerations of domain privacy are influenced by various laws and regulations, including data protection and privacy laws.

Domain registrars have the challenging duty of navigating between providing full privacy protection to their customers and their legal obligations.

As a domain owner, you should be aware of the legal framework in your local jurisdiction and the policies of your chosen registrar.

Related: Legal Guide For Bloggers: Make Sure Your Blog Is Legal

Here are the most important legal factors regarding domain registration that you should keep in mind: 

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): an EU regulation that mandates that personal data, including the contact information of domain registrants, be handled with care and that individuals have the right to request the removal of their data from WHOIS databases.

ICANN Requirements: ICANN has updated its policies to balance privacy concerns with the need for access to registration data, including for law enforcement.

Terms and Conditions: Domain owners need to review their domain registrar’s terms and conditions regarding privacy domain registration to understand the specifics of how their personal data is handled.

Local Privacy Laws: It is crucial to be aware of your local regulations regarding privacy laws, as these can impact how domain registrars handle personal information.

Abuse Prevention: Domain registrars have a responsibility to prevent domain-related abuse, such as trademark infringement, fraud, or criminal activity.

Legal Compliance: Some jurisdictions may require that accurate contact information is provided in the event of legal disputes or domain-related issues.

Is WHOIS privacy worth it? – Conclusion

We should never get too accommodated when it comes to protecting our online privacy. There’s always some risk factor we let pass, and registering a new domain name is no different.

That’s why domain privacy is unquestionably worth it. By shielding your personal information from public access, it safeguards your identity, prevents unwanted solicitations, and enhances online security.

While domain privacy incurs additional costs, it significantly reduces spam, protects against identity theft and hijacking, and maintains online privacy. It’s a valuable service for individuals and businesses looking to shield their personal information.

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Frequently asked questions about domain names and WHOIS privacy

Can someone see who owns a domain?

Yes, anyone can see who owns a domain for free by performing a WHOIS lookup. The WHOIS database contains information about domain names and their registrants, including the owner’s name and contact details.
However, domain owners can opt for private domain registration to protect their personal information.

How do I hide my personal information on my domain?

To protect your personal information on your domain, purchase domain privacy (WHOIS privacy) from your registrar. This service replaces your personal details in the WHOIS database with the registrar’s contact information, shielding your identity from the public.

Who controls my domain name?

Although you own your domain name, the domain registrar controls the technical details like domain registration and DNS settings. To make sure your domain name is accessible on the internet, your domain registrar works with domain name system (DNS) servers.
It is important to choose a reputable registrar and keep your registration information up-to-date to maintain control over your domain.

Can I add domain protection later?

Yes, you can typically add domain protection to your domain name later, even after you’ve initially registered it. Contact your domain registrar, and they will guide you through the process of enabling domain protection for your domain. 
You should expect additional costs associated with this service, although some domain registrars, such as DreamHost, will provide you with WHOIS privacy for free, usually regardless of where you live.

Can we cancel domain privacy?

Yes, you can generally cancel domain privacy for your domain. Contact your domain registrar, and they will assist you in disabling the domain privacy service. After that, your domain’s contact information will revert to becoming publicly accessible in the WHOIS database again.

How do I turn off domain privacy?

To turn off domain privacy, log in to your domain registrar’s account. Find your domain settings or manage domains section, then locate the domain privacy or WHOIS privacy settings. Disable the domain privacy service or select the option to make your WHOIS information public and save the changes.
It may take some time for this change to propagate across all WHOIS services and databases, but after a short period, your domain’s contact information will become accessible in the WHOIS database again.

Can someone hijack my domain?

Unfortunately yes, someone can hijack your domain through unauthorized domain transfer or account access. They might change your domain’s registration details, redirect your website, or take control of your domain. To protect your domain name, enable transfer locks, use strong account credentials, and regularly monitor your domain’s status and registration details.

Why is WHOIS privacy not available?

WHOIS privacy may not be available due to registrar policy, domain extension restrictions, or legal requirements in certain jurisdictions. For example, some country-code domains have regulations that restrict or prohibit domain privacy services. Check with your registrar or review domain extension-specific policies for availability.

How do I enable domain privacy?

To enable domain privacy, simply contact your domain name registrar to enable WHOIS privacy for your domain.
Adding private registration to a domain name typically incurs extra charges but it’s efficacious in protecting personal information, reducing the risk of identity theft and spam.

Should I pay for domain privacy?

Paying for domain privacy is a good idea to protect your personal information, reduce spam, and enhance online security. It’s especially valuable if you’re concerned about privacy and safeguarding your identity.
If you live in a non-EU country and don’t want to pay for private domain registration, opt for a reliable domain registrar that offers it for free for their customers.

How do I find out who owns a domain with privacy?

Identifying the owner of a domain that has privacy protection can be challenging. Although a WHOIS lookup can still be conducted, it will only reveal the details of the domain privacy provider rather than the actual owner.
To reach out to the domain owner, you can try contacting them through the provided domain privacy service’s contact form or searching for additional contact information on the website linked to the domain. But keep in mind that it might not always be available.

Is domain privacy the same as SSL?

No, domain privacy and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) are not the same. Domain privacy shields the owner’s personal information in the WHOIS database, while SSL encrypts data transmitted between a user’s web browser and the website. SSL ensures data security, while domain privacy protects the owner’s identity. Both are essential but serve different purposes in online security and privacy.
If you’re website still doesn’t have an SSL enabled, you can contact your web hosting service. Sometimes it’s available but needs to be activated manually.

How do I keep my domain private?

To keep your domain private, purchase WHOIS privacy from your domain registrar. This service shields your personal information in the WHOIS database. Additionally, use strong account credentials, enable domain locking, and monitor your domain for unauthorized changes. And be sure to regularly review and update your privacy settings to ensure your personal details remain protected.


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Posted on October 23, 2023. Last updated on February 15, 2024.

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