Domain privacy (aka domain privacy protection or WHOIS privacy) is a service domain registrars offer that replaces your contact information with their information in the public WHOIS directory for free or about $10 per year. This protects all businesses by ensuring contact information is less accessible to spammers, hackers, solicitors, and competitors.
While many domain registrars charge around $10 per year for domain privacy, small businesses would do well to find a registrar that offers domain privacy for free. DreamHost is one such registrar. For just $2.59 per month, you can sign up for their basic web hosting plan and receive both a free domain and domain privacy. Click here to get started with DreamHost.
How Domain Privacy Works
When you buy a domain, your information is automatically collected and added to a database that tracks all internet domains. To prevent this, purchase domain privacy when you register your domain, which will replace your contact information with that of your registrar, protecting your sensitive information.
To buy domain privacy, you can purchase a domain from a domain registrar, then add domain privacy by clicking the domain privacy box at checkout. If you’ve purchased a domain as part of a web hosting plan, after selecting your plan, follow the prompts to search for an available domain. Then, at checkout, click the box to add domain privacy to your purchase (it is often a free add-on).
When you buy a domain, the domain registrar has to collect your name, phone number, address, and email and give it to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is a nonprofit that manages the internet’s domain system. It publishes domains and their owners’ contact information in a public database called the WHOIS directory.
Buying domain privacy keeps your information from being published in the WHOIS directory because the registrar replaces your contact information with theirs. As such, this protection deters hackers, spammers, and solicitors from contacting your company. It also hides your information from competitors who, for example, can use the contact information to call your company, act as a potential customer, and research how they can gain an advantage over you.
Domain Privacy Costs
Domain privacy costs between $8 and $12 per year. However, many domain registrars offer it for free when you register a domain, including Namecheap. In addition, many web hosting providers, like Bluehost and DreamHost, offer free domain privacy and a free domain when you sign up for their hosting plan, usually for around $6 per month.
Benefits of Domain Privacy Protection
Domain privacy prevents your contact information—like your name, email address, phone number, and address—from being published in public domain databases. This means that hackers, spammers, solicitors, and thieves, as well as those interested in buying your domain, have one less way of accessing it.
Here are three ways domain privacy protects your business:
Deter Spammers, Scammers & Solicitors
When a company compiles a public directory of business contact information—like your email, phone number, and address—it becomes a prime target for spammers, scammers, and solicitors who want to spam, scam, or solicit your business. By keeping your information from being listed in the WHOIS database, you add a layer of protection for your business.
Prevent Domain Theft & Hackers
Many domain registrars offer domain lock—a feature that requires you to log into your registrar’s control panel to “unlock” your domain before you can transfer it. Domain privacy adds an extra layer of protection against those who may try to use your contact information to hack into your account and unlock your domain to transfer it without permission. Likewise, it keeps hackers from using that information to try to gain back-end access to your website.
Prevent Offers to Buy Your Domain
Most people who want to buy a currently unavailable domain search the WHOIS database to learn the owner’s name and contact information, after which they contact the owner to ask to buy the domain. While this isn’t a problem, when you couple these messages with the spam that often results from publishing your contact information, the amount of unwanted messages you receive can become overwhelming. Domain privacy cuts down on this contact.
How to Set Up Domain Privacy in 3 Steps
To set up domain privacy, first purchase a domain, then elect to add domain privacy at checkout. If you are signing up for a web hosting plan that also includes a free domain and domain privacy, you can simply select a web hosting plan, then follow the prompts to choose your domain and purchase the plan (with domain privacy included) at checkout. To walk you through the process, we will use DreamHost as the example, as it is extremely affordable.
Here’s how to set up domain privacy in three steps:
1. Select a Web Hosting Plan
Begin by navigating to the DreamHost website, then click “Hosting” from the homepage header menu. From the drop-down menu, click “Shared hosting.” On the next page, to get the cheapest domain and domain privacy, scroll down to view the “Shared Starter Plan,” then click the “Sign Up Now” button.
2. Choose Your Domain
On the next screen, choose “Register a new domain” to begin searching for an available domain. From there, you will be presented with a search bar. Type in your preferred domain (www.yoursite.com). If your domain is available, you will be congratulated for selecting an available domain. Next, click the “Add for $0.00” button.
3. Pay for Your Plan
On the next screen, DreamHost will ask you if you want to pay using a debit or credit card, or PayPal. Choose your preferred option by clicking the respective tile. Then, input your account information. For a credit card, for example, it will ask you to input your credit card number, expiration date, and security code. Once you’ve input your information, click “Add Credit Card.” Follow the prompts to checkout with your plan, domain, and domain privacy.
Top 3 Free Domain Privacy Providers
While DreamHost is a low-cost domain registrar that offers domain privacy, there are other options. The best free domain privacy providers offer free domain privacy in addition to a free domain within hosting plans, or with a standalone domain. Standalone domains with domain privacy cost around $9 per month, while providers that offer a free domain and domain privacy within hosting plans for small business websites start at below $6 per month.
1. Namecheap: Best for Free Domain Privacy With Cheap Domains
Namecheap offers .com domains for $8.88 per month and free domain privacy with any domain forever. They do not offer a free domain or free domain privacy with their hosting plans, however. As such, Namecheap is best for companies looking for cheap standalone domains that come with free domain privacy. Click here to search for an available domain with Namecheap.
2. DreamHost: Best for Regional or Chain Stores
DreamHost offers a free domain and domain privacy as part of their $2.59 per month hosting plan, as well as $8.99 per year standalone .com domains with free domain privacy. Or, you can sign buy their $5.95 per month hosting plan and get a free domain, domain privacy, and unlimited websites. As such, DreamHost is best for companies needing free domain privacy to host multiple sites, like chain stores. Click here to sign up for DreamHost.
3. Bluehost: Best for Free Custom Email With Privacy-protected Domain
Bluehost offers a free domain and free domain privacy in their $5.45 per month Choice Plus web hosting plan. With this plan, you also get five free custom email addresses to match your domain. Bluehost does not offer free domain privacy for standalone domains. As such, Bluehost is best for businesses needing a free domain, domain privacy, and matching email to go with their web hosting. Click here to learn more about Bluehost hosting plans.
Domain Privacy Protection Glossary
The discussion of domain privacy often uses technical and legal terms like GDPR, domain, domain registrar, and ICANN. To make the discussion an easy one for you, we compiled a list of frequently used terms you should know pertaining to domain privacy.
Here are six terms you should know to fully understand domain privacy:
A domain is your website address and looks something like www.yoursite.com or www.yoursite.org. It is a set of letters, numbers, and characters that usually form words or a brand name and replaces the IP address of a website (a long set of numbers), making the website address easier to remember. When people want to access your website, they type your domain into their web browsers.
When you buy a domain, domain privacy replaces your contact information—including your name, address, phone number, and email—with those of the domain registrar in the public WHOIS database. Keeping your contact information private reduces your chances of being targeted by spammers, solicitors, hackers, and scammers.
A domain registrar leases domain names to companies or people for a set amount of time (usually one to three years at a time). Domain registrars are accredited by ICANN and, for a fee charged to the consumer, takes care of ensuring a requested domain is available (not being used for another website), registering a domain, and creating a WHOIS record with the domain owner’s information, including their name, email, address, and phone number.
GDPR stands for the General Data Protection Regulation. It is a legal framework adopted in 2016 that sets rules businesses must follow to protect the private information of European Union (EU) consumers. Businesses that target EU customers must inform visitors how their data is collected and request that they agree to it. They must also undergo an assessment of their site’s data security and provide timely notification to customers in the event of a data breach.
ICANN, which stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is a nonprofit organization responsible for ensuring no two websites are assigned the same address. As one central organization that regulates domain registrations, ICANN regulates domains internationally so that one domain only ever points to one website, and that the same domain cannot be resold to different owners in different countries.
The WHOIS directory is a public online list of all owned domains online. In addition to listing an owned domain, the directory also includes the name, email address, phone number, and physical address of each domain’s owner. Domain registrars are required by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to submit this information when they sell a new domain.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is domain privacy?
By law, when a domain is registered, the domain registrar must provide the owner’s contact information to the ICANN WHOIS directory, which then publicly publishes the domain and its contact information. When you buy domain privacy, the contact information is changed to that of the company from which you bought your domain. This keeps your information from being accessed by spammers, hackers, and other individuals with nefarious intent.
Is domain privacy necessary for GDPR?
When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enacted into law by the European Parliament and Council of the European Union in April 2016, ICANN issued a requirement that domain registrars remove public access to their registrant’s personal data.
Since GDPR has not taken affect in the United States, U.S. citizens are protected under a temporary shielding of this information in the WHOIS database. This was put into effect because European Union citizens also use the WHOIS database and ICANN can figure out how to protect their information alone, ICANN must shield this information for all, even for citizens of nations where information is not so strictly protected.
However, this shielding is only temporary. As such, it is recommended that businesses sign up for domain privacy. Those registrars selling domains to U.S. citizens don’t have to shield this information for free. However, many registrars, like Namecheap, do offer free domain privacy.
When do you not need to buy domain privacy protection?
While domain privacy is recommended for all U.S. citizens, European Union (EU) citizens do not have to buy it for their information to remain private. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws prohibit registrars from publishing EU citizens’ data in public databases. While WHOIS is temporarily offering privacy for other nations’ information as they sort out their obligations under GDPR, only EU citizens are guaranteed permanent free privacy.
Do I need domain privacy?
You don’t need domain privacy. However, it is recommended because it keeps your private contact information from being published in public domain databases. This means that it prevents sensitive data from being accessed by spammers, solicitors, scammers, and even competitors who may use it in their research.
Is domain privacy worth it?
Given that many domain registrars and web hosting providers offer domain privacy for free, including Bluehost, Namecheap, and DreamHost, it is worth the effort to sign up for it. After you’ve done so, it can add a layer of protection for your business against spammers, solicitors, hackers, and even competitors looking for information that can help them research a competitive advantage over you.
Bottom Line: Domain Privacy Protection
If you are in the United States, domain privacy ensures your personal information—including your name, email, phone number, and address—is replaced in the public WHOIS domain directory with that of your registrar. In keeping your information private, you protect it from being accessed by spammers, hackers, solicitors, and competitors who may use that information for nefarious purposes.
Many small businesses are working on a tight or almost zero budget. This is why they should take advantage of deals where domain privacy is offered for free. While many domain registrars offer domain privacy for a fee of around $10 per year, others offer it as a free add-on. If you sign up for DreamHost’s basic annual web hosting plan for $2.59 per month, you get free domain privacy with a free domain. Click here to get started with DreamHost.