Welcome to The Little Things, a new series where I write about the little things in tech. These may not be the most groundbreaking, but are meant to discuss the smaller, yet still important things in tech.
If you’ve ever purchased a domain name before, you’ve probably heard of the “private registration” upsell. Most registrars charge a fee of $8-10 per year to make your information private (side note: if you want the cheapest WHOIS protection and domains, check out Namecheap). This sounds great on the surface, but there’s a dirty secret the registrars don’t want you to know.
WHOIS Protection is Good for One Thing: New Registrations
If you’re purchasing a domain for the first time, and you activate the protection right away, you’re good to go. Your information will truly be kept private. Unfortunately, this is really the only time WHOIS protection is really protection. The issue arises when we understand what WHOIS history is.
There are several websites online that allow you to view WHOIS history of a domain. This means you could see all previous records for that domain. With that being said, if you decide to not purchase WHOIS protection, then purchase it later down the road, you’re essentially out of luck. Sure, on a traditional lookup, your information will appear private. When someone does a lookup on a WHOIS history site, however, the previous record(s) will be visible. If you had “123 actual address st” in your previous record, that will still be visible.
“Simple Fix, Just Purchase WHOIS Protection From the Start.”
As you’re probably thinking, this clear fix is to purchase WHOIS protection from the start. Honestly, I would recommend WHOIS protection to everyone. With Namecheap, it’s just another $2.88 per year, and worth every penny if you ask me. As per the previous section, I would definitely recommend purchasing protection from the beginning. There is, however, one more place where WHOIS “protection” can bite you.
Yes, you heard it right! Most registrars require you to disable WHOIS protection temporarily when transferring a domain from one registrar to another. While you may be thinking that your information will only be visible for a week or so, you’d be wrong. History sites may crawl your domain’s record during that one week period, saving it eternally for anyone online to look it up.
The Fix? Use a P.O. Box + WHOIS Protection
If you want to be extra careful to not leave a trace of personal information online, I’d recommend picking up a P.O. Box. I would still purchase WHOIS protection as a first line of defense, but in the case that it fails you, your P.O. Box address will be displayed instead of your home address. If you’re registering on behalf of a company, it is also acceptable to put your company’s office address (unless, of course, you work out of your home).
WHOIS protection is a great thing to have on any domain, but it can certainly bite you. Make sure you know what you’re getting in to, and be careful not to leave traces of personal information that may appear in history searches! If you want to make absolute sure of your protection, definitely use a P.O. Box.