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Private domain registration.. or not

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Wednesday December 29, 2010 )

Many domain name registrars often private domain registration services – but it might not be as private as you think.

Some registrars offer a service whereby their contact details are listed as the registrant instead of yours – it’s a fairly common practice. In the case of where it’s privacy just for privacy’s sake, your details are probably pretty safe. However, if someone is engaging in questionable activities, the privacy could be a very thin veil that can be easily torn.

In my last post, I wrote about Dan Balsam, the spam vigilante who tracks down and sues spammers with some degree of success.

I was looking over his site some more and came across a section dealing with extracting the contact details of domain name registrants who have used private registration features to try and cover their tracks and prevent disgruntled parties from contacting them – or filing a suit against them.

It seems that under ICANN’s rules, a registrar must reveal the real contact details of a domain name registrant where harm (such as spamming) can be demonstrated. I knew it was a pretty simple process for law enforcement agencies to get this information, but didn’t realize just about anyone can be successful in doing the same with a properly worded note to the registrar in question.

Failure to provide the information can see the registrar taking the fall for the offending party should legal action proceed and found in favor of the complainant. In the example Dan gave, this would amount to $1,000 per spam email under California law.

This rule makes sense and it’s one that should be publicized a little more as it may discourage some from not only from spamming (there’s a lot of amateur spammers out there), but spewing hate, engaging in fraud or other detestable activities they feel they can get away with through a false sense of anonymity. The letter that Dan used seemed quite simple and yet got the response he wanted.

If you’re interested in seeing how Dan was able to get registrars to cough up the details you can view his letter here.


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