Domain privacy is a service that helps protect a domain owner's personal information. Investing in domain privacy can guard domain owners against spammers and identity thieves and unwanted marketing efforts. Domain privacy protects domain owners from having their real names, addresses and other contact information displayed publicly, so webmasters can enjoy peace of mind while running their websites.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that monitors domain names and sets rules for their use, requires that identities and contact information be supplied when domains are initially registered. These details are stored and displayed in a public WHOIS database that anyone can access. However, concern over privacy and safety issues can encourage a consumer to invest in domain privacy services as a way to protect themselves.
Domain privacy services can be purchased from the registrar through which the domain is registered. Website owners can request the service at the time of the domain's registration or it can be added later. Domain owners can also elect to purchase privacy services for multiple years at a time.
Usually, when a consumer opts to purchase domain privacy services, he will have to send a special request through the domain's registrar. Many registrars consider domain privacy a separate service and will require extra fees for it. The registrar will then use a proxy service to substitute generic information for the domain owner's real name, physical address, email address and other associated contact details. After generic details are entered into the WHOIS database, those who collect domain owner information for unsolicited purposes will find their jobs much harder to accomplish.
Those interested in procuring privacy services should understand that not all companies treat privacy options in the same manner. Some companies automatically protect a domain owner's identity with a WHOIS guard upon receipt of payment for the services, but they also might provide a domain owner's information if a phone request for it is received. Similarly, many companies that receive legal threats, especially in the form of cease-and-desist letters, would rather supply a domain owner's identity than risk litigation. Individuals who truly want to protect their identity might consider looking into obtaining domain privacy from companies that host domains offshore and receive payments for services through money orders.
In addition, if a domain owner buys a domain with a certain extension, he might be forfeiting his privacy options. For example, domains that end with ".us" are not capable of being protected by privacy companies. Owners of these domains are required to make their personal information accessible to the public.