At Hover, we believe that privacy is a right — not an add-on feature. That’s why we offer free WHOIS privacy whenever possible to protect your personal information when registering a domain name. Unfortunately, there are events underway right now that could change the way that your privacy is protected.
What Is WHOIS Privacy?
For those who don’t know, it’s possible to look up the registrant (the person registering a domain name) information for any domain name. When a person registers a domain name, the person’s contact information is stored in something called the WHOIS database. You can then use a site like whois.icann.org to search this database for any domain name, which will tell you the details behind that domain like the person’s email, phone number and even their home address.
When you get WHOIS privacy for your domain name, your domain provider will swap out all of your personal information in the WHOIS database and instead present their own information. For example, a domain name registered through Hover with WHOIS privacy enabled will show Hover’s contact information in the database instead. That means that we’ll receive all of those spammy emails, phone calls and letters that you may have gotten if your details were public. It’s a tad bit annoying, but we consider each one we receive to be a sign of a job well done by not charging people to protect their identities!
But it’s not just spammers and scammers looking for your information. Sometimes law enforcement, governments, or companies want to track down the person behind a website without going through the proper channels for obtaining this information. This can have dire consequences, since the Internet can be a vital tool for freedom of expression. For example, if you were living under an oppressive regime and wanted to speak to the rest of the world, would you want your government to be able to find out who was behind your website? Probably not.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is working on a new policy that will change the way that domain name providers like Hover handle WHOIS privacy services. There’s a lot of proposed changes, but it all boils down to three major ways that affect how domain name providers protect your information:
- Providers will need to monitor your use of domain names and websites.
- Providers can be forced to terminate your privacy service and publish your contact information in WHOIS.
- Providers can be forced to give your private contact details to anyone complaining that your site violates their copyright or trademark.
These discussions are underway as we speak and if the proposed changes get approved, your privacy as a domain name registrant could forever change.
How You Can Help
If you value your online privacy and don’t want new rules implemented that will compromise this, then make your voice heard! ICANN is welcoming input as they debate this issue until July 7, 2015.
To let them know how you feel, here are two ways to chime in:
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts on the issue.
- Sign the petition at savedomainprivacy.org to join others who feel the same as you. All of the signatures will then be collected and delivered to ICANN on your behalf.
Help us save domain privacy by letting ICANN know that your privacy is important!
And of course, be sure to subscribe to the Hover blog to find out what happens!