Home How do marketers and spammers get my personal information after I register a domain name?

By , April 22, 2010

It never fails: somebody registers their first domain name and within 24 hours they’re getting unsolicited email in their inbox and eventually more marketing material via postal mail.

What happened?

Most people’s initial reaction is to blame their domain registrar, assuming their personal info has been sold. This is extremely rare. Most domain registrars really hate spam and unsolicited email.

Unfortunately, domain registrars are required by the registries they service to enter the registrant details for every domain they register into a publicly accessible database called the “whois” database (you can access it via a whois gateway like easyWhois).

Under the terms of the registry agreements, this information is supposed to be valid and in fact, some politicians in the US introduced a bill in 2005 (FOISA) which would make it illegal to use fake data in a domain whois record.

So what happens after you register a domain name is other third parties “datamine” or “harvest” the email addresses and personal details from a domain name and the fun begins fairly soon after that.

What can you do?

whois privacy
Some registrars have introduced a service called “whois privacy” which masks the contact details of a domain name behind a “proxy” entity. Examples include DomainsByProxy. This works but the big thing you must be aware of is that the entity listed in a domain whois record is considered by the registries to be the legal owner of the domain name. So if you go this route, you have to have confidence that the entity you use for this will respect your claim to the domain name under all circumstances, and that they don’t go bankrupt or otherwise “go away”.

(I wrote a more comprehensive article called “Whois Privacy Considered Harmful” on CircleId.)

whois protected email
easyDNS rolled out a free service at MyPrivacy.ca which protects the email address you use in your domain whois records from spambots but leaves the rest of your record intact. It supports several different registrars and recently introduced individual whitelists, so even if your registrar isn’t supported out-of-box, you can use your individual whitelist to allow email notices from your domain registrar to get through to you unimpeded while other email needs to undergo a challenge/reponse mechanism.

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