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I currently have my full contact details (including my phone number and postal address) in the WHOIS information for all the domain names I have registered so far. I wonder how bad of an idea this is and whether I should remove such information from the WHOIS.

What are the possible consequences of leaving such information there and what are the benefits (if any) for leaving it? Are there any known incidents for troubles because of WHOIS information? Finally, what would you recommend? Would you recommend using a WHOIS privacy service?

Just to add, I believe there are services, like domaintools.com, that archive the WHOIS information, so, is it too late to remove my contact details? (if you think I should remove it).

Many thanks

Update:

I just received an email from my domain registrar which included this:

(Under ICANN rules and the terms of your registration agreement, PROVIDING FALSE CONTACT INFORMATION CAN BE GROUNDS FOR DOMAIN NAME CANCELLATION.) To review the ICANN policy, visit: http://www.icann.org/en/whois/wdrp-registrant-faq.htm

So, it's clear that there's no choice as to providing your real contact details. A WHOIS privacy service is the best option if anyone wants to hide their contact details (this is best done from the beginning as there are services, like domaintools.com, that archive the WHOIS information).

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4 Answers

The domain-related danger is that you'll get unwanted sales contacts from people who want to sell you domain registration or other domain/net-related services.

It's also a way for your personal contact details to leak out into the world at large. Some people care about privacy, some don't. This usually depends a lot on your personality and the risk factors in your life and in the lives of the people who live with you. If you have a hobby or a profession where you tend to make people angry*, it's plausible that sooner or later one of the people you've made angry will want to use your contact information to hassle or threaten you. The same is true if other family members who are easily connected to you are likely to attract stalkers or angry people.

(*For example, I'm an attorney. I don't spend the majority of my time on civil lawsuits but I do sue people and defend people who have been sued. Sometimes the people involved in lawsuits are very angry at each other, and sometimes they transfer that anger to the other party's lawyer, especially if the lawyer is doing a good job. And sometimes clients get angry if they think the lawyer should have won a case but they ended up losing. So I am careful about my personal contact details so that it's tougher for an unbalanced person to bother me at home.)

So the question is not just "do I want to be bothered by salespeople?" but also "how likely is it that my family or I will at some point attract unwanted attention from people who don't know where we live, and that the person(s) who are angry at me will be able to use my domain registration to find me?"

I provide my contact information in the domain names that I've registered, but the contact information I provide is my work address and telephone number, and we've already got systems and procedures in place at my office to deal with salespeople and crazy people.

I think it's a good idea for everyone to have a "business address" (maybe just a PO Box) that doesn't reveal where they and their children sleep at night. But I'm a person who likes privacy.

And, for what it's worth, if I am looking for information on someone, either to decide whether or not they've got assets to make them worth suing, or to find them to have them served with a summons or a subpoena, I'll look at the WHOIS data for any domains that they own, and troll through Google looking for contact information. I've had one case in particular where a dentist who owes my client a lot of money has registered multiple domains, which I found by paying domaintools.com for information, and those domains have revealed additional undisclosed assets and businesses to go after to collect money owed to my client. So it's not unrealistic paranoia to think that someone might use your domain registrations in a fashion that's not friendly to your interests.

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Thanks a lot for your answer. I should've indicated this in my question but yes I'm actually more concerned about the security and safety side. I don't have problems with anyone and I don't really have a problem providing my real contact details but I guess I just wanted to know whether there were well-known best practices related to domain registration. –  Mee Aug 23 '10 at 22:17
    
I don't know about the legal side but my registrar asks for the full contact details (including street, district .. etc) and they state that you have to provide the correct information (Actually, I can't submit the form to buy a domain without providing this information). I'm not a lawyer so I don't know if I'm required by law to provide my full contact details (I was thinking this is probably needed to prove my ownership of the domain but again I don't know). I guess I'll just continue to provide my contact details and hopefully I won't accidentally upset anyone. Thanks again for your answer. –  Mee Aug 23 '10 at 22:18
    
I find that if someone asks for your address and you say "I'm not telling you", they react badly - but if you give them an address where they can reach you, they're happy. It's very unusual (at least in the United States) to be obligated to tell someone where you sleep at night. It helps sometimes to ask why they need the address - if they say "so we can send you mail", then it's hard for them to justify not accepting a business/PO box address. –  gbroiles Aug 24 '10 at 3:29
    
Yes, ICANN requires that you have reliable and accurate contact information, but it doesn't have to be your home phone/address. It can be either an independent phone/mail service, a service provided by your registrar, or something else entirely. –  JasonBirch Aug 24 '10 at 15:44
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The primary consequences are your contact information is publicly available which means registrars may try to solicit you to switch to them. A company was recently busted for sending mail suggesting that domain owners had to renew their domain and tried to get users to do it through their website which also transferred the domain to them (for a higher fee). Other companies do the same thing but in a less shady manner. You may also get other legitimate solicitations to buy the domain and/or website, etc.

Spammers do crawl whois records harvesting email addresses so a public whois record will almost certainly result in an increase in spam. But this can be easily mitigated by using a forwarder as the email address you use to register and periodically change it once the spam gets too bad.

I have used anonymous domain registrations in the past and I can't say it really made any difference other then not getting any mail from registrars trying to get me to switch to them. The cost is small so doing it won't really hit you in the wallet but I don't think it's worth the cost or effort.

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Thanks a lot for your answer. Luckily, I haven't had any trouble so far with registrars or spam. –  Mee Aug 23 '10 at 22:28
    
I've had several letters from a scam company called "Domain Renewal Group", so watch out for them. –  DisgruntledGoat Aug 24 '10 at 10:56
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If someone can work out when you are away from home from your blog, there is a small risk that they will get your address from the WhoIs information then pay a visit to your house.

Now if your blog talks about something that is worth stealing…

However there are so many other ways to find houses of people that are away that I don’t think the risk is great.

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If you own a lot of domain names, then my one bit of advice would be to get a PO Box, as I did. It's about $70 for one year (cheaper than a few "private registrations"). I visit mine about once a month, and it's crammed full of "domain transfer" and "we can improve your search ratings for a payment of $xxx" paper mail. I used to list my work address, but I was getting too many odd questions from fellow workers (that seemed to match what I later found out to be missing mail). But I digress.

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