Thoughts on buying domain protection after GDPR

Published on
October 16, 2023
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Adam Emmerich
Webflow Designer

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 had a profound impact on the way domain registration data is handled. This lead to significant changes in the WHOIS database and the protection of registrants' personal information. GDPR, a European Union regulation, has set a new standard for data privacy and prompted major domain providers to enhance default protection measures for registrants' data.

Before GDPR domain providers used to try and upsell customers to purchase what they coined "Domain Protection" where they would basically set up proxy information for new registrants instead of their own personal data being visible in the WHOIS database. The problem is, they are still selling domain protection products to customers, but the real question is whether or not they are worth purchasing now amidst these new regulations?

The GDPR Effect on WHOIS Data

Before GDPR, the WHOIS database was a publicly accessible resource that contained detailed information about domain registrants, including their names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers. This open access raised concerns about privacy and data security. GDPR was introduced to address these concerns and give individuals greater control over their personal data.

Key Changes:

1. Consent-Driven Data Disclosure: Under GDPR, domain registrants have the right to provide explicit consent for the disclosure of their personal data. This means that registrants must agree to make their contact information publicly available through WHOIS, and they can withdraw this consent at any time.

2. Data Protection by Default: GDPR introduced the principle of "data protection by design and by default." This means that by default, domain registrars must protect registrants' data and only make it available if explicit consent is given.

The Role of Major Domain Providers

In response to GDPR and the evolving data protection landscape, major domain providers have taken significant steps to ensure that registrants' data is safeguarded by default. Here's how these providers have adapted:

1. Masking Personal Information: Many big-name domain providers have implemented default measures to mask the personal information of registrants in the WHOIS database. This involves replacing registrants' contact details with generic information to protect their privacy.

2. Consent Mechanisms: These providers have introduced clear and accessible consent mechanisms, allowing registrants to choose whether or not their data is disclosed publicly. This puts registrants in control of their personal information.

3. Compliance with GDPR: Major domain providers have adapted their practices to comply with GDPR regulations, ensuring that their operations align with the new data protection requirements.

So what does that mean for website shoppers?

GDPR has undeniably reshaped the landscape of WHOIS data and online privacy. Major domain providers have responded to these changes by implementing robust default protection measures, making it easier for registrants to safeguard their personal information. Although you would not think this is the case if you're trying to purchase a new domain at the most common domain providers. They still add disclaimers and warning notices that your private information will be made public without purchasing their add-on (typically around $10/month extra for the life of your website).

We recently put this to the test by purchasing two domains from one of the top domain providers in the industry. For one item we purchased domain protection, and the other we did not. Upon looking both domains up on several WHOIS database search websites including and ICANN we noticed that both websites had proxy information set up for all of the private data fields. This means that the private information that we were told would be displayed publicly without "domain protection" was not actually displayed in the WHOIS database. Domain providers have become clever offering things like reminders and extended time periods to revive your domain if you fail to make a payment. These measures ultimately "protect" your domain.

If you are able to set up automatic payments, or set a calendar reminder for your domain expirations (you can be sure they will email you as well), then it's hard to say whether it is worth spending $100 - $120 per year for "domain protection" if it's not actually needed to provide privacy in the WHOIS database.

Google domains was a great alternative domain provider since they did not upsell for "domain protection", but with the recent acquisition of google domains by Squarespace, it seems they've adopted simple messaging as well claiming that they provide free WHOIS database privacy.

In the end, although GDPR has brought some new headaches for website developers and owners, the days of unrestricted access to WHOIS data are fading, replaced by a more privacy-conscious approach that puts the control and protection of registrants' data at the forefront.

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