Every registered domain has contact information associated with it. This information is provided from the user (registrant) to the domain registrar (such as GoDaddy, 1&1, eNom, etc) at the domain’s registration. This information includes your name, address, and phone number and the registrar is required to prompt you annually to verify your contact information. This contact information which you provide to the registrar is used for more than just billing purposes. The information will also be reflected in the WHOIS directory. The origin of WHOIS dates back to the early 1980s, when it simply listed the contact information of those exchanging information via ARPANET. Today, this is how WHOIS is described:
The WHOIS service is a free, publicly available directory containing the contact and technical information of registered domain name holders (referred to as “registrants”). Anyone who needs to know who is behind a website domain name can make a request for that information via WHOIS. The data is collected and made available by registrars and registries under the terms of their agreements with ICANN.
As with anything else, the sharing of information comes at a cost. If you do not own a business with a physical address, you might not want your address listed publicly for security reasons. Even if you own a brick and mortar business, one of the issues that arises from your contact information being public is phishing and scam contact. Speaking from personal experience… I once registered a domain without privacy protection because I wasn’t sure if I was going to do anything with it, so didn’t want to invest a lot of money into it. However, I ended up investing way more time diverting sales calls and emails from “Google AdWords Specialists,” “SEO Experts,” and the like. I would never do that again and I would certainly never help someone purchase a domain without recommending privacy protection or private registration.
Domain Privacy Protection, or Private Registration, replaces your domain’s WHOIS contact information with another company’s information. (In the example I shared for the featured image on this post, the contact is domainsbyproxy.com, which is used by GoDaddy.) The cost is typically around the same as the domain name itself. Chances are, you probably can afford an extra $8 or so annually. It will save you from wasting your time on a ton of spam and will hopefully protect your co-workers from falling for phishing schemes.
My advice is to just plan on purchasing privacy protection when you get a new domain name. So when you’re looking at possible domain names to buy, just double the cost and that is what you will probably be spending.
If you’re interested in reading more about the stance that WHOIS takes in terms of privacy and proxy services, here are some resources: