Domainmonster.com Domain Editorials
Whois is a protocol used to search the databases which hold information about networks, domains and web hosts. Usually, the Whois records include information about the individuals and organisations which are associated with these domains and networks.
When you register a domain name, you are required to provide your name or the name of your business, an address, telephone number and email address. There are fields for a billing contact and technical contact as well. Providing false or incomplete details could result in you missing renewal notifications, and hence losing your domain, or else having your account suspended, so it's important that you provide the correct information and that you make sure you update it promptly whenever necessary.
The Whois database is public: anyone can search for the Whois details of any domain name. This information can be really useful for all sorts of reasons. For example, if you come across your perfect domain name but it's owned by someone else, you can find out who to contact to ask if it's for sale by checking the Whois database. It's also used by lawyers and authorities to fight online fraud and other crime.
If the publicity of this database is making you worry about spam, you're not the only one: there are plenty of critics campaigning for more privacy. At the moment, retrieving Whois information involves filling in a field with the letters and numbers which appear in a small, randomly generated graphic. Spam bots looking for email addresses to harvest can't read graphics, so only human beings can access the database. This is not to stop human visitors from collecting email addresses manually, however.
The conflict between privacy and accountability is unlikely to be dealt with conclusively for a long time. ICANN has put forward various suggestions for improving the privacy of internet users, but many have been rejected for being overly complex or unfair. The introduction of official proxies to handle domain registrants' information and accounts could be an option, but adding a layer of security could frustrate law enforcers' efforts to catch fraudsters and scammers online.
By Natalie Catchpole