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WHOIS domain privacy and protection for small businesses

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There are over 342 million registered domain names worldwide, and you can look up every single one on a public database called WHOIS.  

When someone registers a domain name, their personal contact information will be added to WHOIS. This means that your name, address, email or phone number could be found by anyone searching the database—unless you opt for private registration.

For peace of mind, many people choose to buy their domain name from a registrar that can offer services that will protect their identity.

Many of the best domain registrars are hosting providers, who offer great ways to maintain your privacy.  In this blog post, we’ll cover the topics any reputable hosting provider or domain registrar should be familiar with:

  1. What is WHOIS and what does it do?
  2. How private is your information in WHOIS?1
  3. Choose a registrar that protects your identity
  4. The benefits of private domain registration
  5. FAQs on private domain registration

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What is WHOIS and what does it do?

WHOIS is the public online listing of every registered domain name in the world. By searching WHOIS, you can find out who owns any domain. 

Domain name ownership and registration is regulated by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). You can search WHOIS by visiting the ICANN’s WHOIS Lookup.

When a new domain is registered, a new record is created in WHOIS. Each record contains all of the contact information (including name, phone number, address and email address) for the company or person who registered that specific domain.

These records include details for the registrant (the domain owner) and the registrar (the organization or commercial entity that registered the domain name) as well as important dates, like the creation date and expiry date of the record, and nameservers.  The record also shows contact information for administrative and technical needs should that be someone different than the registrant. 

Below you’ll see the result from searching Web.com in WHOIS. Note that our contact information is protected because we used a registrar that offers private registration.

While WHOIS may seem like a simple database, the data it houses is extremely valuable. 

First off, the WHOIS database helps reinforce the stability and security of the internet by making contact information available to network operators, internet service providers and incident response teams.

This information can help safeguard against fraud and make it easier to track down malicious spam or phishing scams. It can also support law enforcement combating cyber crimes and the abusive use of information.

What’s more, WHOIS helps regulate the registration of domain names and supports inquiries related to ownership, such as trademark clearances, which can ensure intellectual property is appropriately protected.

How private is your information in WHOIS?

Since ICANN requires contact information be provided for every registered domain, anyone can access WHOIS to check the status of a domain and get the contact information provided in the database.

With private registration, there isn’t a 100% guarantee of privacy because registrars have to follow the law and may be required to release the information under specific circumstances. Your personal information will, however, be hidden from general searches. 

It’s important to note that there are exceptions to the rules for certain domain extensions. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR ) also requires masking entities in the EU. Here are some exempted domain extensions:

  • .us – Owners of a domain with the .us extension do not have the option to make their information private.
  • .ca – Canadian law automatically protects those using this extension, meaning domain registrants are not required to have their contact details publicized. This rule only applies to individuals, not corporations. 

Choose a registrar that protects your identity

The fact that information in the WHOIS database is readily available to the public raises some valid concerns about protecting your privacy. 

One of the best ways to protect your information is to register your domain through a registrar that offers the option to do so privately. This means the registrar will provide their name and information as the contact information that appears in the WHOIS database.

Private domain registration is often considered an add-on service, so you may have to pay an additional fee that’s separate from the cost of your domain registration.


If you’re wondering if paying for private registration is worth it, consider how much you value your privacy. Do you want your phone number and address on WHOIS for anyone and everyone to see? The low cost typically associated with private registration is a small price to pay for protection.


Case in point, ex-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer personal’s contact information, including his home address, email and phone number, were found and then shared publicly using WHOIS records. 

By using private registration, you’ll be able to protect your identity, and you won’t receive unwanted solicitation. After all, it’s fairly common for certain types of technology service providers to use WHOIS to find potential customers.

Software engineer Victor Algaze chronicled what happened when he didn’t use private registration. He was inundated with calls and emails from service providers who scrape WHOIS for contact details. 

The benefits of private domain registration

What is domain privacy protection, and does your business need it? First, it’s important to understand that when you register a domain name for your business website, your personal information — such as name, address, phone number and email — becomes public information.

For website owners, this can have several negative consequences:

  • You’ll receive a lot of spam emails and unwanted telemarketing calls from companies who scour the WHOIS directory for businesses’ contact information so they can try to sell them things.
  • Malicious individuals may try to use the publicly available information, combined with social engineering, to hijack your domain — that is, change the registration without your permission so that they own your domain. Dealing with a domain hijacking and getting your domain back could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars, not to mention the time and hassle involved.
  • If you run your business from home, having your personal information exposed to the entire world means anyone could find out where you live, which could put you and your family’s safety at risk.


If you try to avoid these issues by using fictitious contact information, you could lose the rights to your domain, because ICANN requires the information provided be accurate.

Fortunately, there is a solution to these problems: private domain registration. What is a private domain? It’s an add-on service that “masks” your information. Instead of listing your personal information, the service generates proxy contact information.

When choosing a service to do private domain registration, look for one that allows you to turn masking on and off yourself. There may be some situations when you need your real information to be visible on WHOIS, such as when a legitimate third-party requests it or when you need your SSL certificate validated. Look for a service that lets you manage this yourself so you can turn masking on and off as needed.

With Web.com’s Private Domain Registration service, you can have all the benefits of a domain registration without exposing your personal information for everyone to see. When you purchase our private domain registration services, the WHOIS directory will list Web.com's name, postal address and phone number instead of yours.

Although our company information is displayed on your domain registration, you still retain the full benefits of domain registration. Thus, only you can:

  • Cancel, sell or transfer your domain registration.
  • Cancel our service so that registrant status reverts to you
  • Renew your domain registration upon expiration
  • Designate the name servers to which your domain points
  • Resolve claims arising out of a dispute involving your domain registration

FAQs on private domain registration

How do I know my identity is protected?

You know your identity is protected because your personal information is not published in the WHOIS database. Instead, Web.com's name, address and phone number are made publicly available. You prevent spammers, scammers, and prying eyes, and avoid exposure to spam, fraud, or possible identity theft. We won't reveal your identity unless required by law or if you breach our Web.com Service Agreement.

What extensions can I privately register?

Almost all domain extensions are eligible, only a few are not due to governmental regulations.

Those are: .AC, .AM, .ASIA, .AT, .BAYERN, .BE, .BERLIN, .BR.COM, .BZ, .CA, .CH, .CO.NZ, .CX, .DE, .ES, .EU, .FM, .GS, .HAMBURG, .IM, .IO, .JP, .LA, .LI, .MS, .NAME, .NET.NZ, .NL, .NYC, .ORG.NZ, .ORGANIC, .PRO, .RU.COM, .RUHR, .SA.COM, .SE.NET, .SH, .SYDNEY, .TW, .UK.COM, .UK.NET, .US, .VOTE, and .VOTO

If you are interested in purchasing private domain name registration services for a new or existing domain name, please visit Web.com.

What kind of information can I manage on my private domain?

First, you can modify and update, as necessary, your private domain name's non-public contact information, including the registrant, administrative, technical and billing information. In the event you revert to a public domain registration, all of this contact information will be required by ICANN, the international governing body for domain names, and therefore must be kept current. You may use the same information for all of these contacts. If you do not complete all of the contact information, the registrant details will be used for the rest.

You can also cancel our private registration services for your domain name(s). Please note that canceling our private registration services will not cancel the domain name; canceling our private registration services will turn your private registration back into a public registration -- thereby revealing your personal information in the WHOIS database. There are no refunds when you choose to cancel our private registration services.

Must I provide valid contact information for a private domain registration?

Yes. When you purchase a domain name you must include accurate and updated information for all of your contacts (e.g., registrant, Administrative, Technical & Billing), regardless of whether you choose to make it a "private" or "public" registration. This is the only way Web.com can reach you with issues concerning your domain and our private registration services.

If you enter false information you risk having your domain name, as well as our private registration services, canceled entirely. Please review our Web.com Service Agreement carefully so you fully understand your rights and obligations.

Can I cancel a private domain name registration?

Yes, as the domain owner, you have the right to cancel the private domain registration service. To cancel during the service term, you need to call customer service and do it over the phone or via other customer service contact method.

After you cancel our private domain name registration services, your name, home and e-mail addresses and postal addresses will be made publicly available in the WHOIS directory.

Please note that there are no refunds when you cancel our private registration services.

Choose a one-stop shop for your domain security needs

If you haven’t yet registered your domain, keep things simply by registering with a domain name registrar that provides private domain registration. That way, you’ll have everything handled under one umbrella. Consider the convenience of choosing a company that can handle your website design, SSL certification, website hosting and private domain registration all in one place, vs. the hassle of having to go to a separate provider to protect your domain privacy. Web.com is a one-stop shop that offers all your business’ online needs. We have a team of professional designers, SEO specialists, security experts—and more—all ready to help. Remember, online convenience and confidence come when your needs are handled by experts.

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