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. The regulations of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization that accredits domain name registrars, requires domain owners’ information be made available on the Whois public Internet directory.
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’re a domain investor – someone who owns a lot of domains either because you may use them later, you’ve registered them to protect your brand or you hope to sell them at a profit — those domains can be very valuable. Having your personal contact information exposed makes it easier for people to scam you or hijack your domain name.
- 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 and changes it every 10 days. The service also filters your emails for spam and forwards any legitimate ones to your real email address, so you don’t need to worry about missing anything.
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.
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.
Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.