The Whois is a directory that lists the technical and contact data of registered domain names, the sharing, and updating of which is mainly entrusted to Registries and Registrars such as Gandi. This directory allows you to obtain various contact information related to domain names, namely the holder, administrative, technical, and billing contact – collectively referred to as Domain Contacts.
You can use a tool such as this Chrome extension to instantly find the WHOIS data of any domain without having to leave the domain you are visiting!
Historically public, the holder could subscribe to an additional service to protect his identity, which has become almost obsolete with ICANN’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The different types of data published in the Whois at the time of the GDPR
The data published by default in the Whois may vary depending on whether the domain name concerned is :
A national Top Level Domain (ccTLD) for which each Registry has its own rules and specific information is compulsorily published;
A generic top-level domain (gTLD), managed by ICANN, for which the mandatory information includes the name, address, telephone number, and email address.
Our attention is focused on the regulatory changes that have affected gTLDs.
Indeed, the principle of public access has been called into question by the entry into force of the GDPR on 25 May 2018. The obligations imposed by ICANN on registrars regarding the collection and publication in WHOIS of information concerning Domain Contacts have therefore evolved towards masking this data by default.
However, these obligations are general and leave it to the Registries and Registrars to define the disclosure mechanism. There is, therefore, no uniform and homogeneous methodology between the different organizations on this issue.
This is why there are many debates between privacy advocates who welcome this lack of systematic disclosure and legitimate access seekers who argue that the public interest or the protection of intellectual property rights, among others, is at stake.
What is domain privacy?
When we talk about domain privacy, we are talking about a service offered by a domain name registrar. In this document, the customer buys the confidentiality of the company, and the company replaces the WHOIS information of the user with information from an email forwarding service using a proxy server.
In this sense, it is essential to choose a reliable registrar before opting for a hosting plan with a free domain. It should also be noted that a hosting company can have a good or bad reputation. However, its role as a registrar may not be good, and it does not offer privacy protection for the domain.
Therefore, when buying a domain, we need to be careful about two things:
- That the domain registration company has a good reputation.
- The purchase and confidentiality of a domain
When we buy a domain, we must provide our contact details to the domain registrar. These details will be available to the general public via the WHOIS directory. It is done this way because it was established by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. This body is the one that oversees domain-related issues.
When we talk about domain privacy, this is an additional service that many domain name registrars offer for an additional cost. In case of possession, our information is protected and is not displayed in the WHOIS directory. Instead, this information will be replaced by generic information from our registrar.
Which benefits can domain privacy offer?
As we have just mentioned, having contracted domain privacy, our confidential data will not appear in the WHOIS directory. This will provide us with a series of significant benefits, which we list below:
- It will help reduce spam in our emails and minimize unwanted traffic.
It may also reduce the chances of our domain being hacked due to a phishing attempt.
The domain registration company has a good reputation and offers a domain privacy protection service.