Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Registration information for domains or web hosting services can sometimes be public. We'll look at how to keep your information private.

I read in a novel that it is possible to track a telephone number via your webpage. Is that possible? I would like to know because it is somewhat disturbing.

It really depends on what you mean by "your webpage". There are definitely scenarios where you need and/or want to be particular careful about what information you provide. But most people don't need to worry.

If you purchase your own internet domain, one of the things you are required to provide is a working telephone number. There are various ways to not provide your own home phone number, but many people forget or don't bother, and as a result their information - sometimes even their home address - can be quickly found by doing what's called a "whois" look up on the domain name.

For example, if you go out to DNSstuff.com, scroll down to the tool labelled WHOIS lookup, enter a domain name there and press the WHOIS button, you'll get this information. Do it for "ask-leo.com", and you'll see in part, something like this:

Domain name: ask-leo.com

Registrant Contact:
   Puget Sound Software
   Leo Notenboom ****@pugetsoundsoftware.com)
   +1.2067740432
   Fax: +1.2067740432
   P.O. Box  2841
   Woodinville, WA 98072
   US

That's my contact information. The email is cloaked, but often it's not. But you'll notice a phone number and a mailing address. Both are required.

You'll note that I've preserved my private information by using a post office box. And the phone number? It's not my home number by any stretch. If I didn't want to take those steps there are also services that will act as an intermediary - you list their information, and they filter any attempts to contact you.

"... the real risk is the information that you had to provide ..."

But if you're not careful, it's all to easy to forget and actually set up your home address and phone number in the registation information.

If "your web page" is something else, like your page on myspace.com, a blogging service or some other service that gives you a place to have a web page, the answer varies. You should definitely take care to make sure that any information you're required to provide isn't published by the provider, or if it is, that you obfuscate it some how. For example when you create your profile on a service like Hotmail, there's no reason to provide your real phone number. In fact, if you choose to make your profile public, there's every reason not to. More importantly: if you have the option, don't allow your profile to be public to begin with.

So the bottom line is that for any web page that you put out on the web, the real risk is the information that you had to provide to make it. If you take care to give appropriately obscure information, or make sure that the provider doesn't just hand it out, you should be quite safe from casual contact.

Article C2969 - March 21, 2007 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

6 Comments
Daniel Ullman
March 22, 2007 9:24 AM

i.e. domain registration
Network Solutions has a service called Private Registration. Instead of posting your contact information it directs everything through Network Solutions to be forwarded to you.

For example:
Your name s438u8y6@networksolutionsprivateregistration.com
ATTN: xrewa.NET
c/o Network Solutions
P.O. Box 447
Herndon, VA 20172-0447
Phone: 570-708-8780

I suspect that other services have something like this.

dunstergirl
March 24, 2007 12:00 AM

Wow, THAT was revealing...Although it's nothing more than you could find in a phone book (online or paper), and I think I sort of knew that info was out there (since I have looked up many IPs/names in the past just to see if they are on the up and up, but...still a bit dismaying the amount of information revealed. Not that I can think of a single phone call in 6+ years that has anything to do with owning a domain (although maybe that is why I get unsolicited faxes from Dell?). So if I want to change the info that is displayed by whois for the world to see for a domain I own (and have for many years), what should I do? Contact my registration provider or???? And is there a similar trick that will work to block calls from credit-card companies wanting to pre-approve me for yet another one :-)

As for network solutions, I've seen many incoming "pings" etc. from various IPs linked to this group blocked by my firewall, to the point I'm considering a general block on any IP associated with them, just because there's no identifying info. Something to think about...

Cheers,
Lelani

Leo Notenboom
March 24, 2007 8:51 AM

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Yes, once you have replacement information (PO BOX and a "safe" phone number)
you'd simply contact your registrar to update it. Many allow you to update it
yourself in your domain adaministration tool.

NOTE: It's CRTICAL that the information be VALID. If you put up bogus
information you risk losing your domain. ICANN, the agency that manages all
this stuff, requires valid information.

That's why, as a previous commenter noted, many registrars (not just NetSol)
also offer the ability to cloak your contact information with their own. It's
valid, and if a valid contact is made, they can then pass it on to you
properly.

Good luck!

Leo
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)

iD8DBQFGBUj+CMEe9B/8oqERAtqvAJ0ZQgqQ7wIRZ9eMf9B3GjvyX7olkgCbBCwc
3qTwV026fJgLE9qsKlASPcM=
=IAQ0
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

dunstergirl
March 24, 2007 10:50 PM

I will check with my registration co. to see if they offer "cloaking". In the meantime...

I've had the requisite box number since day one but the phone number (don't care so much about fax apart from wasted paper) is more problematic. What do I use instead? My business? My partners (both computer illiterate) won't thank me if calls begin coming in as a result (we get enough scams wanting to sell us paper for the direct debit machine at wildly inflated prices). My neighbour? This is such a small town that if someone calls the wrong number and asks for me the neighbour will just give them the number, happens all the time (often to the great surprise of the caller)...And I'm not about to pay the phone company another $30-$50 per month for a "dummy" line. So what other VALID options are available?

Thanks!
Lelani

Leo Notenboom
March 25, 2007 10:48 AM

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Actually I use maxemail.com which is around $24 a year for a valid FAX number
that also takes voicemail and emails it to me.

But yes, options are limited. That's why sercices from the various registrars
are appealing for the casual user.

Leo
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)

iD8DBQFGBrXSCMEe9B/8oqERAoncAJ9XUgmPn0CdVFz7Ad2l+SvnrU+9RwCfcOOL
pcV/QPmywrqA8N1MChl28mU=
=cEuI
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

Lloyd Cheaye
March 29, 2007 11:45 AM

Hello Leo,

I have a problem that is spinning my head.My computer have virus so I bought mcafee antivirus to install and remove the virus. The problem is that every time I go to install the program from the cd it does not booth up, I also tried installing it from start run but no avail. Could U please tell me what I am doing wrong.

Thank you for all the questions and solutions that you give us all the time. You what ? U rock.

Thanks,
LC

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.