Cybersecurity,  Technology

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

As the value and vulnerability of data continue to increase, it’s crucial for site owners to understand the management of their personal information and, therefore, why is the WHOIS database public. This isn’t just a matter of being careful, but a necessary step towards a responsible and safe online presence.

Why is the WHOIS database public, and how to hide your personal information to enhace online privacy and security

In this article, we’ll discuss why is the WHOIS database public, who can have access to your personal information, what is WHOIS privacy, and how you can legally protect your online privacy.

By comprehending how WHOIS data is accessible and utilized, you can take measures to protect yourself from potential privacy breaches, spam, or even cyber threats.

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Table of contents

What is the WHOIS database?

The WHOIS database is an online repository containing information about domain names and their registrants. It includes details such as the domain owner’s name, contact information, registration and expiration dates, and the domain’s DNS servers.

This data serves as a public record, helping individuals and organizations identify and contact domain owners. It plays a vital role in Internet governance, enabling accountability and transparency in domain ownership. 

However, privacy concerns have led to changes in WHOIS policies. Now, many registrars offer services to protect the personal information of domain owners while still complying with legal requirements.

What is the full meaning of WHOIS?

Although it may certainly look like one, in fact, “WHOIS” isn’t an acronym.

Actually, “WHOIS” simply means “Who is”, since the databases are primarily used to get information about who is the website owner (regardless of which website).

What information does WHOIS provide?

WHOIS provides valuable information about domain names and their registrants. This information typically includes the domain owner’s name, postal address, email address, phone number, domain registration and expiration dates, and the Domain Name System (DNS) servers associated with the domain. 

This data serves various purposes, such as:

  • Contact details: It allows individuals or organizations to identify and reach out to the domain owner for various purposes, such as business inquiries or technical matters.
  • Accountability: WHOIS helps establish accountability in the domain management ecosystem, ensuring that domain owners can be held responsible for their online activities.
  • Transparency: It promotes transparency by disclosing ownership information, enhancing trust and authenticity in the online environment.

Although this may be true, privacy concerns have led to changes in WHOIS policies. So, in opposition, options for domain owners to protect their personal information while complying with legal requirements have become available. These changes balance privacy with transparency and accountability.

Why is the WHOIS database public?

The WHOIS database is public to promote transparency and accountability in the domain name system. By making domain ownership information accessible, it allows individuals and organizations to identify and contact domain owners, fostering trust and authenticity online. 

This transparency helps in addressing issues related to domain misuse and abuse and ensures that those responsible for domains can be held accountable for their online activities.

Who can access the WHOIS database?

Access to the WHOIS database is typically available to the public. 

In other words, anyone with internet access can query and retrieve information from the database, including domain registrants’ details.

Despite WHOIS databases being public, access restrictions and data availability may vary depending on the domain registrar and regional regulations. 

In recent years, privacy concerns have led to changes in WHOIS policies, limiting the extent of personal information visible to the public while maintaining access for legitimate purposes like law enforcement and intellectual property rights enforcement.

Who manages the WHOIS database?

The management of the WHOIS database is distributed across multiple entities, including domain registrars, registries, and Internet governing bodies. 

Notably, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, plays a central role in coordinating these efforts. 

Domain registrars maintain and provide access to WHOIS data for the domains they manage, while registries oversee specific top-level domains (TLDs). Meanwhile, ICANN sets policies and guidelines for WHOIS management, although it does not directly manage the database itself.

The combination of these entities working together ensures the functioning of the WHOIS database across the internet’s diverse domain name ecosystem.

Will my personal information be publicly visible in the WHOIS domain directory?

Whether your personal information is publicly visible in the WHOIS domain directory depends on your domain registrar’s policies and your domain’s extension. 

In the past, most domain registrants’ details were openly accessible in WHOIS. However, privacy concerns and regulations have led to changes.

Many registrars now offer WHOIS privacy protection services, which replace your personal information with their own in the directory. This shields your data while maintaining compliance with domain registration rules. 

But keep in mind that, for some domain extensions and in certain jurisdictions, personal data may still be visible. So it’s essential to understand your registrar’s specific policies.

What is WHOIS privacy?

WHOIS privacy – also known as WHOIS protection, domain privacy, and anonymous domain registration – is a service provided by domain registrars to shield the personal information of domain owners from being publicly visible in the WHOIS domain directory. 

Instead of the domain owner’s details, the registrar’s contact information is displayed. 

This helps protect individuals and businesses from potential privacy risks, such as spam, unsolicited contact, and identity theft, while still complying with domain registration rules and regulations.

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

How do I hide my personal information on WHOIS?

To protect your website and shield your personal information from being publicly displayed on WHOIS databases, you must acquire domain privacy with your domain registrar.

Must be remembered that for EU residents, WHOIS privacy is typically free thanks to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires that personal data be protected. This regulation mandates that domain registrars offer privacy protection for EU residents at no additional cost to comply with GDPR privacy requirements.

As for non-EU residents, WHOIS privacy can be generally purchased as an add-on for your domain name.

Web hosting providers and domain registrars such as SiteGround have anonymous domain registration available for purchase for $12-$24 per year.

On the other hand, if you purchase a domain name with DreamHost, they will give you domain privacy for free. Also, if you sign up for one of their yearly web hosting plans, you get a domain name + domain privacy for free. DreamHost’s plans start at $35.40 per year, and you can also get unlimited emails @ your domain name for this value.


In today’s digital age, having an online presence is a virtual storefront or portfolio for some, while for many others it’s a reflection of their identity.

Whether your reasons for registering a website are professional or personal, your contact information will become accessible in public WHOIS databases. These databases contain vital details about domain registrations, including full names, contact information such as home/business address and phone numbers, and more.

Understanding how your personal data is handled in these repositories is paramount to maintaining your online security and privacy.

Is there anything that is still unclear? Check our WHOIS FAQ below!

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Is domain info public?

Domain information, including registrant details, was traditionally public and accessible in the WHOIS directory. However, privacy concerns and regulations have led to changes, allowing domain owners to protect their personal information while still adhering to domain registration rules.

What information does the WHOIS database contain?

The WHOIS database contains information about domain names and their registrants, including details like the domain owner’s name, contact information, registration and expiration dates, and DNS servers associated with the domain.

What is the purpose of using WHOIS?

The purpose of using WHOIS is to query and retrieve information about domain names and their registrants, allowing individuals and organizations to identify and contact domain owners, and promoting transparency, accountability, and trust in the online environment.

What is the difference between DNS and WHOIS?

DNS (Domain Name System) translates domain names into IP addresses, facilitating website access. WHOIS is an online directory containing information about domain names and their registrants, providing details such as domain ownership and contact information. They serve different functions in managing internet resources.

Who manages DNS lookup?

DNS lookup is managed by DNS resolvers, which are typically operated by internet service providers (ISPs), network administrators, and hosting providers. These resolvers process DNS queries and retrieve the corresponding IP address for domain names, enabling internet users to access websites and online services.

What is WHOIS in cyber security?

In cybersecurity, WHOIS is a tool used to investigate and analyze potential threats. It provides information about domain ownership, helping to identify malicious actors, track down cybercriminals, and protect against online threats.

What does WHOIS stand for?

WHOIS stands for “Who Is” and, actually, is not an acronym, although it surely looks like one.

Does Google domains hide WHOIS info?

Google Domains has privacy-protection options available at no charge for most domain endings. This privacy protection allows you to make some, or even all, of your info private.

Are domain name owners public?

The public visibility of domain name owners depends on domain registrars, location, and privacy settings. Traditionally, domain owners’ information was public in WHOIS databases, but privacy services now allow domain owners to hide their personal information in WHOIS directories.

Who controls a domain registry?

A domain registry is typically controlled by a registry operator, which is responsible for managing and maintaining a specific top-level domain (TLD). Registry operators are designated by organizations such as ICANN and oversee the registration and technical functions for their respective TLDs.

Why do we require ICANN in the computer networking field?

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is vital in computer networking to manage domain names and IP address allocation and ensure a stable and globally coordinated internet. It maintains the Domain Name System (DNS) and provides governance, fostering internet functionality, interoperability, and uniformity.

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Posted on October 30, 2023. Last updated on December 8, 2023.

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