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Most domain registers offer a service to keep your details private in the Whois database. Usually this works by replacing your email, telephone and snailmail addresses with proxies or P.O. Box numbers. E.g. http://www.domainmonster.com/domain-name-privacy/whois/

Does this system effectively preserve your privacy and under what circumstances could the register be forced or tricked into revealing your details?

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There are services that can block this information of course your under no obligation to provide accurate information either. –  Ramhound May 25 '12 at 16:23
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@Ramhound I think most registrars have a clause in their terms and agreements that requires accurate Whois info. (Will they ever find out? Probably not. So I suppose it's an ethical obligation.) –  Matt May 25 '12 at 17:04
    
@Matt - I have 2 domains with GoDaddy. The only information they have is my PayPal information. I pay them extra for the private domain registration service they offer. There is a company that provides the service, the only way they will provide the real information, is if they are ordered by a court order. This assumes the information used to create the account is accurate. By looking at the BILLIONS of scam websites that exists I would say nobody ever checks. –  Ramhound May 25 '12 at 18:53
    
FYI Namecheap is offering domain privacy (called WhoisGuard Protection) for free with new registrations now. –  dodgy_coder Jun 29 '12 at 1:06
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Similar to Ramhound, I also have two domains hosted through GoDaddy. I'm currently working to transfer them over to a better registrar, for privacy reasons. I use their private whois registration (Domains By Proxy). First and foremost, 'our' data is stored on their servers, so if their servers were compromised I suppose an attacker could extract private registrations.

More likely, if a registrar receives complaints or is contacted by authorities, you risk having your information handed over. For example, on DBP's website, at the bottom left-hand corner in the footer there is an area for authorities to request information about a domain and a 'file a claim' section for everyone else (copyright abuse, spam, defamation, etc.). A registrar would be legally obligated to comply with the police, granted they have a subpoena (welcome to America!). Though, there is a trend for companies to cooperate with the police without one, let alone evidence of wrong doing. I can only assume they would also work with attorneys, intellectual property owners, etc.

Although I wouldn't recommend it on a public forum (seeing as it's illegal), various users decide to provide false information during domain registration, that way the whois contains inaccurate information about the domain holder.

You may be interested in an article, "Private Domains Not So Private?" by CNET. TL;DR: DBP decided to drop a private registrar's account (without notice), therefore exposing his credentials simply to avoid the heat of hosting a controversial domain's registration.

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you already have the answer, but I would add something. As mentioned, Domains By Proxy will protect your whois information against spammers but sometimes, even if you are not aware of that you have some unauthorized copyrighted media on your server, you will receive a letter from attorney because they have the right to gain data from Domains By Proxy.

There are more secure ways to protect your whois domain information than Godaddys Domains by Proxy: you need an offshore domain provider. One possible way is mediaon.com but there are also different providers.

It is important to find a domain provider where your payment can't be tracked down (credit card or paypal are no go) and of course you need also a secure hosting because if the government asks a regular hosting company for your information, they will hand it out.

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