Don’t expect to remain private if you register a .us domain name.
Last July, Chaya Raichik registered the domain name LibsofTikTok.com to go along with her Libs of TikTok Twitter account.
In October, she apparently decided to protect her brand by registering the matching domain in .net, .org, .info and .us. That last one ended up being a mistake.
The United States still doesn’t allow Whois privacy for .us domain names, so Raichik’s address, phone and email were (and still are) public on the Whois record for the domain.
Raichik had tried to remain anonymous, even giving anonymous interviews to major news outlets. But the .us domain registration gave her identity away. It helped internet sleuths track down the history of her online rabble-rousing and was the basis for a very public outing in The Washington Post yesterday.
The government nixed Whois privacy on .us domains in 2005, sparking an outcry from registrars, including GoDaddy. At the time, registrars’ motivations might have been financial since they charged for Whois privacy. But these days, in a world of privacy regulations, including the European Unions General Data Protection Regulation, Whois privacy has become the default on almost all domain registrations. An exception remains .us.
GoDaddy (NYSE: GDDY) acquired the company that manages the .us namespace on behalf of the U.S. government in 2020. But the government is the ultimate arbiter of policy. I’ve heard rumblings of a new push to allow privacy on .us domains, even dating to before GoDaddy acquired the registry services operator that manages the domain.
But for now, here’s what about.us, operated by GoDaddy Registry, states about privacy:
The usTLD has an ongoing interest in ensuring that its top-level domain is administered in a secure manner and that the information contained within the authoritative database is reliable, accurate, and up-to date. One of the mechanisms to ensure the integrity of the .US namespace is the through the collection of true registrant information. The usTLD Registry employs an algorithm to detect the inadvertent or intentional registration of proxy, anonymous and/or private domain name registrations, and enforces a registrar’s obligation to not offer such services to .US domain name registrants.