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Registering an anonymous domain will hide your personal information from the easily accessible public records, but it does not insure complete anonymity.

I want to buy a domain; a domain where my privacy is protected. But what about the future? How can I choose a provider that I can trust for many years to come? How do I know if the "provider" can be trusted? And what if I need to transfer my domain? I want a domain, a domain with total privacy protection for many years to come. Is it OK to simply use one provider I find online or do I have to do a background check?

In this excerpt from Answercast #79, I look at the issues around registering a domain anonymously and what that really means.

Registering an anonymous domain

Well, this one gets interesting. It's very difficult to say which providers are going to be around say five, ten, twenty years from now. The internet is a fast-moving landscape.

What I suggest you do is to pick a provider, a reputable provider today and just go with them. You can move domains to other providers in the future if (for whatever reason) you feel that the one you selected is not one you want to work with long term.

Anonymous domains

The other issue I want to address here is the one of anonymity.

So... your privacy is protected to a degree.

When you register your domain, in many cases, you'll be given the opportunity to purchase what is called "Whois protection." What that does is it keeps your information off the public records associated with your domain. Your name, your phone number, your address, those kinds of pieces of information (which are required to register a domain) are removed from the public record. They are replaced with information that would direct someone to your "registrar" or to the anonymous registration provider.

They then would have the responsibility of contacting you if the information... if the contact is legitimate. They would not give your information to the contactor, but they would pass on the contactor's information or message to you.

This is where I have trouble with the term "anonymous" or "privacy" or "protected" - because ultimately, it is required that information is able to get to you as a domain holder.

  • That means that your registrar knows who you are.

  • That means that the authorities can require that the registrar expose who you are.

So, anonymity and/or privacy extends only so far. The anonymity and privacy that I recommend for most people is simply a way of keeping your information out of the easily available public records that people can find when you register a domain. But, that does not prevent you from being found - and it does not keep you completely anonymous; certainly not from any legal authorities that might have a legitimate reason for finding you out.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Next from Answercast 79 - How do I backup a website?

Article C6145 - December 17, 2012 « »

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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.

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