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Computer Privacy Annoyances by Dan Tynan

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PRIVACY @ LARGE

Whois Stalking Me?

The Annoyance:

I’m starting up a web site for battered women, but I don’t want abusers to find out how to reach me by searching the Whois database. Is there a way I can register anonymously or tell my registrar to suppress my contact information?

The Fix:

There is, though it’s not exactly obvious. The Grand Poobah of Internet policymaking, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) (http://www.icann.org/), requires anyone who registers a web site to make their contact information available to the public via the Whois database. There are plenty of good reasons for this—for example, if you need to track down somebody making libelous comments about you on their site, you can search Whois and locate the blighter. But you can get around the public record requirement in a couple of ways.

For example, domain registrar Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) will provide alternate contact information for the Whois database (such as a private mailbox maintained at NSI and a temporary email address). They’ll then forward any email, letters, or calls to your real address while keeping that info safe from spammers, direct marketers, and others who troll the Whois rolls. The cost for this service? A mere $9 a year on top of whatever domain registration fees you’re paying (for more information, see http://www.internetprivacyadvocate.org).

You could also use a service like Domains by Proxy (http://www.domainsbyproxy.com), which also charges $9 a year to ...

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