The answer to the above is a resounding YES. If you own a website, your personal information such as address, cell phone number, e-mail address (pretty much everything short of your first-born child’s worst fears) may be publicly available to the web’s unsavory characters.
“So where’s all this info!?” you ask. “And how do I check if I’m exposed?”
If you’ve registered a domain like toiletoverflow.com and are like me, not a computer expert/don’t play World of Warcraft 24/7 in your mom’s basement, you may not have known that the personal info you used to pay for your domain is public. There’s a system called a WHOIS lookup that let’s you see who owns an Internet domain like google.com. Lots of websites, like this one, provide WHOIS lookup services.
Go ahead and search for a friend’s website. You might be able to find their cell phone number.
So why is this stuff public?
- Supporting Inernet security by providing contact points
- Assisting law enforcement
- Facilitating inquiries for on intellectual property rights
- Combating fraud
You agree that you may use this Data only for lawful purposes and that under no circumstances will you use this Data to: (1) allow, enable, or otherwise support the transmission of mass unsolicited, commercial advertising or solicitations via e-mail, telephone, or facsimile; or (2) enable high volume, automated, electronic processes that apply to VeriSign (or its computer systems).
But there’s a solution. Private registration, which does cost extra, masks your personal info on WHOIS lookups. Your contact info may be replaced by your hosting company’s. Although, domain privacy is not 100% private, it’s better than nothing.
If your only only use free sites like facebook, LinkedIn, gmail, etc, then you don’t have to worry about people stalking you via your website. Of course, people can still stalk you the good ol’ fashioned way. Like that creepy unemployed 30-something-year-old you once met at a Lower East Side dive bar who constantly pokes and writes annoying messages on your wall.
So if you are a creepy and patient guy waiting in Lower East Side dive bars who can’t persuade cute girls to let you into their pants but can convince them to buy a domain (or find out she has one), do so. Then run a WHOIS lookup. Forget about low-tech stalking via facebook and welcome to the brave new world of Internet stalking.