Complete anonymity isn’t guaranteed with whois privacy services.
Using a whois privacy or proxy service to register and set up a gripe site? Or perhaps some other web site or domain you don’t want attached to your name? Be prepared for the potential that your information will be disclosed.
There are two types of whois security services: privacy and proxy. A privacy service generally shows your name but includes a service’s address, phone, and email. With a proxy service, the service usually registers the domain name on your behalf and then licenses the use of the domain to you. The preliminary results of a whois privacy study released last year (pdf) show that as many as 25% of domain names use some sort of whois identity protection service.
When someone files a complaint, be it law enforcement or a UDRP, the proxy service doesn’t want to be stuck holding the bag.
Consider the most popular service, Go Daddy Group’s Domains by Proxy (DBP). If someone files a UDRP against a domain name that uses DBP, the service changes the whois to reflect the owner’s true identity. Kelly Lewis, Deputy General Counsel for Domains by Proxy, explained to Domain Name Wire:
DBP provides privacy services for millions of domain names, and it takes the protection of its customers’ information very seriously. As a proxy service, DBP substitutes its name and contact information in the whois database in place of the customer’s information, thereby providing privacy. In disputes under the UDRP, however, the registrar is required to provide a verification of the registrant and the registrant’s contact information. This allows the customer to defend his or her interest in the domain name. Before the registrar can make that verification, it is necessary that the privacy services be temporarily terminated so that the verification process can be completed and dispute resolved. If the customer prevails in the UDRP proceeding, the customer can then have privacy services reinstated.
Of course, if you signed up for the proxy service to protect your identity, all another party needs to do is file a UDRP to unmask it. Sometimes the respondent prevails. If the respondent wins, DBP will reinstate the whois proxy information at no charge upon request. But the information has already been disclosed.
Many, but not all, proxy services provide contact information to UDRP providers upon the filing of a case. Registrants should be aware of what proxy and privacy services are as well as their limitations.
And remember, nothing is completely anonymous.