Cheap, fresh whois data is leading to increased spam and telemarketing.
I usually keep my iPhone on “do not disturb” mode at night. But not on August 16. My wife was traveling, so I kept it on in case she needed to reach me.
At 4:19 in the morning, my phone pinged and woke me up.
It wasn’t my wife. It was this text message:
The text message I received was from Devan Crow, who owns a Florida business called SkyNet Group LLC.
For $500 a quarter (or less for longer term subscriptions), Crow will give you fresh whois data every day:
The subscription provides full data going back more than a year. Updates are provided daily and include all new registration across the primary legacy extensions (com, net, info, us, org) and all of the 300+ new zones (xyz directory etc) along with all of the parsed Whois data for each domain. Includes registrar data and country of registrant for each domain as well and includes direct contact details for all registrants.
In an email to Domain Name Wire, Crow insisted his data isn’t behind new domain registration spam:
“I know my clients well and I understand their specific use cases. I have & will cut off users who I know are using the data simply for unblatent/un-targeted marketing. This simply falls upon personal responsibility: I can not control my clients – nor any other human being for that matter – but I will cut their data off if necessary.) I do not provide refunds however in this case as stated in the contract that clients agree to/sign.”
I can’t imagine acquiring so much data and using it for one-on-one marketing.
The amount of spam you receive after registering a domain name is growing. People use daily zone file and whois comparisons to send solicitations like this.
Crow also says that his collection and sale of this bulk data doesn’t violate any terms of service with registries or registrars. In doing so, he also admits that it’s being used for telemarketing:
ICANN allow the collection of whois data if you enrich the data and inhance it with other data. The data as provided to clients is enriched. This allowance is true with many data handling licenses. An example of how the data is enriched for one of my clients requires that telephone records of US registrants be identified as wither a landline or cell phone. The accuracy of this data needs to include numbers that have been ported as well (ported from landline block to cellular OR from cellular blocks to landline.) Porting is a growing trend but currently effects around 3%. This same client also requires the number to be checked against state and federal do not call lists. This is important because MOST companies fail to access and check their data against state lists. You are familiar with Web.com doing the very same thing recently. They called a client who was not listed on the federal do not call list but was on a state do not call list. What most companies do not understand/realize is that laws requires a business to know if a number is on s do not call list simply for it being in their database. A very good reason why the scrubbing API that I built is so popular among my clients.
So is harvested whois data also why I’m receiving so many robocalls?
He also points to this page.
That page actually notes “WHOIS may be used for any lawful purposes except to enable marketing or spam, or to enable high volume, automated processes to query a registrar or registry’s systems, except to manage domain names”.
To be fair, Crow is not the only person selling this data. But at such a low price, it makes it incredibly easy for marketers to abuse.
As for my complaint of the ill-timed unsolicited text message, Crow was unapologetic:
The only way to reasonably expect a person’s local time is their area code. Unless you are travelling and out of your normal area you would not have received a text at 4am. The only exception is where a wireless network delays the delivery of the message (similar to how email messages can temporarily soft bounce). (Ive had it where a person has sent me a text and I dont receive it until 12+ hours later.) While this can happen and still does from time to time it is pretty rare.