Monthly Archives: April 2016

How a professional webpage can harm your privacy

I have a professional webpage, which serves as the homepage when people search for me on Google. Great — right?

Yes, but many academics do not realize that when they register their domain, they are making personal information public, potentially. More specifically, your personal email, your personal phone number, and home address. Several domain registrars see keeping this information private as an extra service and require additional fees, so be sure to check (send me an email if you want me to check your domain). I suggest you switch if they charge you for privacy.

So, the problem is that not all domain registrars keep your personal information private and if they do not, anyone can simply query the origin of the website and find it (e.g., with the whois terminal command). I have tested this on several professional webpages, and I have learned information about my colleagues I did not know before (e.g., home address), shamefully. Depending on the registrar, you can see information like this (of course this is a fictitious example)

Registrant Name: John Doe
Registrant Organization:
Registrant Street: Blastreet 12-A
Registrant City: Blacity
Registrant State/Province:
Registrant Postal Code: 42176
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: 001555666777
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email:

but when the domain registrar does keep it private (as for my webpage), it might just refer to the registrar

[chjh@pandorica ~]$ whois
Domain name:
Status: active

Hostnet bv
De Ruijterkade 6
1013AA Amsterdam

Please be sure to check your professional page, or let me know if you would like me to check for you (I promise I won’t save any of the information). Despite Open Data in research, I think privacy for researchers is still warranted. Especially if you want to prevent getting harassed when you do research some might find controversial.

EDIT: I was notified that in some countries, this information is mandatory. For example, in Germany the Impressumspflicht mandates this information.