3 Tips to Keep Your Domain Names Private

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Several years ago, the day after acquiring a high value domain name in private, I received an email from someone within the industry congratulating me on my acquisition. I couldn’t figure out how he learned about the purchase, but later found out that he was monitoring the domain name, and when it transferred to my company, he was able to tell that I bought it.

By virtue of my blog, my business has become somewhat public. I’ve embraced this to a degree (although I despise it some days), and I don’t generally have issues sharing some recent acquisitions and purchases. By sharing, I think it might help readers to see what I believe is valuable, and it can also help to generate interest in some of my domain names.

Many people and companies prefer to keep their business dealings private for competitive or other reasons. I want to share a few tips on how you can keep your business private. Some of these suggestions might be obvious, but as I’ve learned, what is obvious to some is novel to others.

  • Purchase privacy protection from the domain registrar. Prices vary depending on the registrar, but this can prevent people from seeing the actual owner’s information. Keep in mind, if you are doing this on a domain name you’ve owned for a while, there might be an archive of the Whois info from when it was public. You’ll want to buy privacy shield as you transfer or hand register a domain name if you care about privacy.
  • Use a generic name like “Domain Admin” or “Domain Manager” on your registration. Other information can still be seen, but it might make it a bit less easy to search for the owner by name if a real person’s name isn’t listed.
  • Use different email addresses for your Whois information. The critical aspect is that you absolutely need to ensure you control these email addresses. If you host your email on your domain name, you need to make sure the domain name is renewed annually. I believe some domain registrars let owners have a different Whois email address from the email address that receives billing and other notifications.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Just some caution on #2 for others who might not know: one can use “Domain Admin” or “Domain Manager” as any of the domain name’s three contacts, but not necessarily as the registrant name. It’s because one might be asked to prove that the registrant name is an existing entity or person.

    • I have no problem proving that the “Domain Manager” is an existing entity or person within the trust that owns my domains.

      Is there a rule or law that actually SPECIFIES the registrant name must directly correlate to a person or DBA that that it cannot be a representative instead?

    • Probably the closest answer to your question is that ICANN requires domain names to have complete and accurate WHOIS information. So if maybe the registrant name is fake, then the registrar can use that as a ground to nuke the domain name.

      While there’s no law saying that the registrant name must directly correlate to a person, DBA, or representative, there’s none either saying that a registrar cannot require the registrant to be an existing individual or entity. One can argue the issue any other way.

      (Besides, how else – if ever – is one to prove ownership of the domain name if s/he puts in something like Domainer12345 as the registrant?)

  2. If domain name is for sale, never use privacy protection. It is a red flag. I would never buy domain name that does not have a clear and real whois record.

  3. People who are aware of the capabilities of domain tools have no problem showing the world what they want the world to see or hiding what they want to hide.

    It’s just the domainer version of ‘google awareness’. Once you’re aware of it, use it to your advantage.

  4. @ Mark,

    I use privacy protection on all my domains, and really never thought of it as a red flag, Red flag for what? That potential buyers may think it’s stolen?

    The trust issue may very well be valid, but I still manage to sell 1-3 domains a month and the whois record has never been a issue during the sale, I usually remove privacy once a price is reached and Escrow is started.

    • You’ll find that folks who mock ‘paranoia’ are usually just irrelevant people who don’t comprehend what it’s like being above the fold and watched, since they’re irrelevant and nobody would notice if they died.

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