Private Domain Registration: What do you have to hide?

Dec 14th, 2011

Whether you are new to this and are trying to register a new domain name for the first time or if you already have one:
Basically every single registrar out there offers Private Registration as an additional value (for an additional fee, of course).

What’s their sales pitch? What’s their reasoning behind it?
Godaddy.com for example says this:

Well . . . Uhm . . . Yeah.

Isn’t that the whole point of having a business? Don’t you want customers to know how they can reach you?

And if you are a legitimate business (meaning you have all the required licenses & everything is on the up-and-up), then everybody can (and should) look up your information in your city/county/state business directory anyway.

Look at all these benefits (according to the registrars)!

Ah yes, SPAM protection.
Not publishing your email address in the WHOIS database prevents spammers from sending you unsolicited email.
But it also prevents everybody else form sending you legitimate inquiries.
Why not instead simply reserve one email address for the use on certain websites? Chances are, you have your email address published in a hundred other places like facebook, on your website, etc. But all of a sudden having it in the one place where it really matters is an issue?

Benefit #2: We save you from Telemarketers.
Sure. If your phone number is not in the WHOIS database, they cannot call you.
But neither can customers and other people who might have very real questions.
And again, chances are – your phone number is on your website (and if it isn’t, it should be!), on your facebook page, and on dozens of other websites (you have submitted your business information to every single business directory out there, right? Right.). They will find you, one way or another (same goes for spammers, by the way) ;)
Simply add the number to the Do-Not-Call list. And if they keep calling, report them.

This all sounds good, though. Is there a downside?

It depends ;)

If you don’t care that we (and a lot of other internet-savvy people) will not do business with you since we cannot verify who you are and that you are in fact a real company, then, I guess, it doesn’t matter.

Most of the time a business automatically gets added to our personal do-not-do-business-with-list when we come across any of the following:

Sorry, but we are not buying the domain name registrars’ list of benefits.
To us this means that you have something to hide.

Unfortunately, dealing with SPAM and Telemarketers is a part of doing business nowadays.

One more thing:

You might be doing something else when using this Private Registration service: You might be giving up the right to your domain name. That’s correct.
In an article from Wikipedia you find:

With “private registration”, the private registration service can be the legal owner of the domain. This has occasionally resulted in legal problems. Ownership of a domain name is given by the organization name of the owner contact in the domain’s Whois record. There are typically four contact positions in a domain’s Whois record, Owner, Administrator, Billing, and Technical. Some registrars will not shield the Owner organization name in order to protect the ownership of the domain name.

In a trademark infringement case, a 2009 United States District Court ruling in U.S.A. held that, for domains with “private registration”, the privacy service is legally the “owner” of the domain. The privacy service acts as the “cyber-landlord of the Internet real estate”, and the domain is “licensed” to the customer of the privacy service.[4]

Ownership of domains held by a privacy service was also an issue in the RegisterFly case, in which a registrar effectively ceased operations and then went bankrupt. Customers encountered serious difficulties in regaining control of the domains involved. [5] ICANN has since remedied that situation by requiring all accredited registrars maintain their customers’ contact data in escrow. In the event a registrar loses its accreditation, gTLD domains along with the escrowed contact data will be transferred to another accredited registrar.

So, is there a real benefit?

There sure is: The money the registrars get for providing this service ;)

About the author:

Nina Khoury is a computer scientist, software engineer, data and information junkie and online marketer. She taught at various universities for more than six years and worked on projects for Fortune 500 companies including cisco, Intel and HP.

2 Responses to “Private Domain Registration: What do you have to hide?”

  1. Website Developer says:

    If a customer already has a web address and they are legitimately wanting to contact a business/business owner they’ll get the details from the About/Contact Us page of the website. No legitimate customer is going to bother doing a whois lookup – the average customer wouldn’t even know of (and rightly wouldn’t even consider) whois. The information in the whois databases is there for technical registration related purposes – not as a means for the general public to find the customer service contact details. From personal experience, the spam to the email addresses you use when registering a domain will almost immediately overrun your inbox. For this reason it is strongly recommended to use a separate email for domain registration (e.g. do not use your main customer/contact email address for the domain registration).

    • Nina says:

      I’ve been to many sites that simply don’t have the information on a their About Us or Contact Us page. That’s why I suggested checking the whois database.
      I’ve been administering domain names since 1997, and the amount of spam coming from there has been negligible over all these years.

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