Online Privacy

I see from her latest entry that Rachel Lucas is thinking of setting up another, anonymous website to vent.  Given that she’s using her real name, it makes it easy for stalkers to find her. 

The first and biggest obstacle to online privacy is that ICANN requires valid contact information in domain registration records.  If it is found that you put false information in the registration record, they can cancel your ownership of the domain.  In fact, I recall in one instance where a company attempted to hijack a domain from its rightful owner and ICANN sided with the hijacker because the owner used false registration information.  While having your contact information in the registration database is bad from a spam/junk mail perspective, it also makes your address public knowledge to anyone who knows how to do a WhoIs lookup.

Some people have taken the approach of using a P.O. Box (or one of those PMBs you can get at the UPS Store).  The solution that I use is a service from a company called Domains By Proxy.  If anyone does a WhoIs lookup on my domains, all they will get is the address of Domains By Proxy.  If someone needs to contact me about the domain, Domains By Proxy maintains an anonymous email redirector (with spam blockers).  If someone wanted to find out my real address they’d have to get a subpoena before Domains By Proxy will release that information.  They are affiliated with Go Daddy, so you have to use them as your registrar.  The service is $9.00/year, which is less than a P.O. Box.  I haven’t had any problems with either Go Daddy or Domains By Proxy, although Go Daddy is a bit pushy during the registration/transfer process in trying to get you to buy other services from them.  If I recall correctly, you have to decline three separate pages of “special offers” before you can finish the checkout process. 

Name Secure is another, similar product ($9.00/year), but I don’t have any experience with them, so I can’t say how good their service is.

As long as you use a real name, people can find you using other methods.  However, a good pseudonym and a service like Domains By Proxy can make it harder for stalkers and enraged Michael Moore fans to find you.

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