Domain Privacy

Hello, this is not really a Local or WordPress question, but I cannot think of a better place to ask. I apologize if this is a wrong question to ask but here it goes:

I want to start my own website but I am really scared of the WHOIS domain privacy issue. I’ve already read many articles, and I know about domain privacy you can buy a domain from hosts. However I also read some horror stories that some hosts divulging personal information over a simple phone request.

I do not own a business that I can use as a public contact, so it seems that I have to use my personal info. I am in the US, so there is no EU privacy protection.

In reality, how high is the risk? I understand nothing is 100% secure, big banks are getting hacked, but is it like driving a car?: 100 people die in car accidents in the US every day, but we all drive, and most of us are OK. Is it like that, or is the risk much higher?

I assume many of you own domains privately and have real-world experiences. I’d really appreciate if you could share your thoughts, or any other suggestions.
Again, I sincerely apologize if I break the community rules by asking an irrelevant question.

Thank you,

Hi, @kenguiche! This is a great question — thank you for asking the Local community for its thoughts.

Private domain registration is generally safe

I have bought over 100 domains in the last 15 years and always use my registrars’ privacy protection. To my knowledge I have never had my personal information leaked via domain records. Registrars generally honor their privacy protection policies. It can hurt a business to give up customer data too easily, even if its customers are not covered by GDPR and similar legislation.

Domain registration in general does not present a huge risk to your personal safety in common use cases — as you say, most of us will be OK.

Extra things to keep in mind

  1. Registrars do sometimes give up personal information in response to cease and desist letters or phone calls from lawyers. How much you care about this depends on how likely you are to receive cease and desist letters or get into legal trouble, and how big an impact your personal details becoming public would have.

  2. The type of domain you register can affect how much domain privacy is available to you. For example, the “dot us” .us domain extension does not currently offer privacy protection, which means your name and email details will be part of your public domain records in a way they would not be if you had chosen instead with privacy protection. Learn more about how domain extensions affect privacy here.

Take extra precautions if your personal safety is closely linked to your online privacy

It’s worth mentioning exceptions to the above: people doing something with their website that is clearly illegal, borderline legal or controversial, dangerous to people in power, or that simply breaks your service provider’s terms of service should tread more carefully when registering a domain or choosing web hosting.

If my personal safety depended on remaining anonymous (example: a journalist fighting state-level corruption), I would do everything I could to publish my stories without linking my identity to the services I publish with.

For people who need extra privacy there are other ways to register domains privately or publish online privately, but they usually come at the cost of convenience — for example, in the case of registering a domain you may have to work through one or more intermediaries and pay with cash. So it’s not common to go this route unless you really need to.

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@nickc Thank you very much for taking time to give me invaluable info. The internet is full of cookie-cutter info and sales-pitches, and I really appreciate your honest, detailed opinion based on your real experience. And I also thank Local for letting me ask this question.

This is my very first time starting/running a website. I have already built the model on my PC using Local + WP, and I just wanted to have a clear picture of what I am really getting into before I dive in.

I understand all the caveats you mentioned. I am not doing anything nefarious or dangerous. I am more concerned about identity-theft or something like that, and I am trying not to take any unnecessary risks.

Again I really appreciate it.

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