The Pros and Cons of Private Domain Registration

Hi Ashley! So its that time of the year when I have to renew my domain, when I originally bought it I got a fantastic deal on both the domain and private registration by Proxy. Now however I have to pay both full price and was wondering if renewing my domain along with the private registration is worth it? Thanks! 🙂

Kaina

Hi Kaina! This is a tough question. There are definitely pros and cons to private domain registration. In fact, there are mostly pros until you learn about one little con that might sound scary. So let’s dig in!

The Cons: Your information is made public

Let’s say you don’t buy private registration. You could go to a site like whois.domaintools.com (or one of the thousands of alternatives), put your domain name in the box, click “Search” and see your full name, home address, telephone number, and email address… all right there! This primarily results in you getting a lot more spam emails, but it can also result in spam phone calls and snail mail.

No one likes having all their information on public display like that.

The Pros: Private registration hides these details

When you get private domain registration, you enter into an agreement with your registrar. In exchange for an extra fee (usually about $5 per year extra) they mask your personal details. Instead of using your name, they use their own name or some kind of anonymous organization. This means none of your details are visible and you’re protected from all that unwanted spam!

But who owns your domain?

I’m going to quote a great article called, Dangers of Private Domain Registrations and WHOIS Masking. When you get private registration,

You are no longer the “owner” or your domain name. The domain authorities, like ICANN, define who owns the domain by what is published in WHOIS. They discount any contracts between you and the registrar. Whoever is listed in WHOIS is the domain owner.

You no longer have any rights unless you sue the registrar. If you are not listed in WHOIS, then you have no legal rights to the domain. The only way to assert your rights would be to sue the folks listed in WHOIS and cite whatever contract you have with them in the suit. This may be difficult if they are in a foreign location or, worse, out of business.

When you register a domain name, you’re registering with ICANN. The way they determine who owns a domain name is by checking those WHOIS databases. Whoever is listed as the owner there is the legal owner in their eyes. If you get private domain registration, your name is NOT listed there, which means in the eyes of ICANN you are not the owner of that domain.

Now, in 99% of cases this will never actually be an issue. The registrar isn’t going to steal your domain, you won’t have to mess with ICANN, and you’re not going to get caught up in a legal battle. Usually.

So is private registration worth it?

As I said, legal issues with domain ownership probably won’t be an issue for you. The general rule of thinking is that domain registrars want repeat business. They want to keep making sales. In order to do that, they need to be trustworthy. If they start trying to steal domain names from people and get into legal battles, it’s going to drive customers away. They want you to keep coming back and paying for private registration.

So ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons. Are you okay with having your personal information released to the world? Are you okay with getting spam emails, phone calls, and snail mail?

I’d say the best choice is to get a PO box and second email address, then fill out that information when registering a domain name. That way your home address and primary email address aren’t on display, and you don’t have much of a need for private registration. But renting a PO box can be much more expensive than private registration, so it may not be ideal for everyone.

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16 comments

  1. I didn’t thought about the registrar owning my domain, and I hope I’m correct not worrying about it…lol
    Think it could be worst – here in Brazil, for .br domains, they release the same information PLUS your personal tax ID!!! It’s a document that allows people to borrow money from a bank in your name! (Of course you need more than just the number to get money from the bank, but you get the idea. But people could buy things and send me the bill, for example). That’s scary! So, if you don’t own a business to register your domain, forget about it – or be prepared for tons of scams.

    1. Yeah you don’t need to worry. Tons of people do private domain registration and there have been so few problems with it that I’ve seen.

      But that’s crazy that they reveal your tax ID!! Talk about making identity theft easy…. sheesh.

  2. I always make the information private, I don’t want my personal information to be shown! (Too many crazy people out there!) Even ICANN has suggested to drop WHOIS in 2013 because it’s all too often inaccurate, and also because shouting out people’s personal information is somewhat in opposition to free speech.
    Also, even though it’s private, my company WHOIS still show our name as “registrant” which should be enough in case of problem but to be honest, I never had any issue with domainname registration and transfer from one registrar to another.

  3. Here’s the thing – the one and ONLY time I opted out of the private registration thing, I started to receive phone calls to my house the next week. I hang up straight away on every single telemarketing call as soon as I identify it. This one asked for me by name, said something about my website, and I hung up straight away. Received 4 phone calls that week alone. Because I host through Ashley, I immediately emailed her and said I had skipped the private registration when doing my domain name – she was able to set up the private registration thing, I paid and that was it. No more phone calls. I will NEVER skip that bit again. Ever.

    Jaki recently posted: Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
    1. Right now I do private. But I’ve been meaning to get a PO box for a long time, so I’ll probably switch to that eventually. So the entries would have:

      My name
      PO box (don’t care about getting spam there)
      An email address that I do own, but not my primary one (something like webmaster@nosegraze.com or something)
      Not sure what to do about phone number yet

      So I’d like to get to the point where all the details are mine, just not the “important” ones (like actual home address).

  4. I used to pay for private registration, but when I created my new website, I found out that I need to indicate my real name and address on my website anyway. Apparently this is legally required in Germany (where I live) or otherwise you have to pay a fine if someone notices (probably not, but better safe than sorry in this case, I guess). I couldn’t believe it when I read that after all the public privacy debates. I mean I get that it’s supposed to protect customers, but my blog isn’t even commercial, so there really is no point to this. If it were commercial, I would even have to add my phone number.

    I didn’t know that you don’t own your domain anymore if you go with private registration, that makes me feel a little better about not having it.

  5. This is something I struggled with as well when I decided to go self-hosted. In the end I didn’t choose private registration but only because I have access to an address that collects mail where I don’t actually live at. I’ve been toying with the idea of a PO box but at the moment I’m not willing to shell out that money.

    I wish private date were hidden from the public WHOIS database, so that worrying about whether or not to register a domain with our own names wouldn’t be such an issue =/

    Joséphine @ Word Revel recently posted: THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US by Kasie West
  6. A tough call. I’ve got about 150 domains and currently use private because it’s free for me. That said, I do not like the point you raise about the technical ownership rights. I will probably go public on the next re-up and grit my teeth for the inevitable onslaught of spam. I get a bunch now, because even with private registration, you get blind emails that are forwarded to your acct.

    I would also note for your readers that when I moved one of my domains, I discovered that my “mailbox was full”. In other words, the registrar (one of the original top rep companies) wasn’t forwarding my emails. That’s all fine and well if it’s junk mail, but not if it’s someone who wants to buy or get info from me regarding a domain or an issue with that domain. So I would just caution folks on the contact from too. If you’ve only got one name and it is not creating big $ or of sentimental value to you, I say go private…otherwise the cost may be too considerable.

  7. I just had this exact same question today. Thank you so much for the concise answer! I registered with Go Daddy a couple of years ago and couldn’t understand how the price has gone up so much in just two years. I have a family member’s PO Box # and a spare email address to use for it now. Bye bye, private domain. 🙂

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