The computing world has changed quite a bit since the 1980s. But one might be rather surprised to see how much has stayed the same. Some of the basic protocols for networking systems have only changed to a minor extent over the decades. But nothing really lasts forever in the computing world. Even seemingly ubiquitous systems like the WHOIS database can finally succumb to time.
A system with an impressive history
At the moment the WHOIS system does date back to the 1980s. The initial design was drawn up in an almost quaint period. There simply weren’t that many people on the digital networks. A good chunk of anyone online might well be located a short walking distance away. It was a mainstay of close knit universities and researchers. As such, there really wasn’t much need for security concerns.
But today the Whois database is in a very different place. It’s become, quite literally, a global record of domain name ownership. But the exact nature of privacy within that database is rather nebulous. Some people already think of it as a public Whois database that anyone can use. And in theory the current system really is supposed to be a public Whois database. But as with many technological implementations, theory and practice are often quite different.
Theory and practice within the tech sector
Again, one should first consider how things are supposed to operate. When people register a domain name they need to provide some personal information which will go into the WHOIS database download. But one can imagine the issues involved with public figures going through that process. Or even people who aren’t well known but hope to be one day. How are they going through the process without having their phone number or address boldly displayed everywhere? The answer is that many, arguably even most, people are now using methods to make their information private during the registration process.
But one can certainly wonder how things would change if all that information became public. The answer really isn’t hypothetical. People have tested exactly what happens when using public information with the Whois database. And the answer is rather worrisome.
Public information and general contact points
It turns out that when someone uses fully public data on the Whois system than it quickly becomes a draw for any number of different spammers. The most common spammers are people who want to sell products related to starting a new business. The connection is rather easy to draw. People with a new domain name have a good chance of also being in the process of starting a new business or brand. But the fact that it happens so quickly shows just how easily spammed with unwanted offers one will be.
The consequences of public Whois data is having contact information become increasingly useless. Some people might use their work email and phone number. Others might use their home number and email. Others could even include both types of contact information.
But in the end, the consequences of public Whois data is ceaseless spamming to every single one of those contact points. This means that private registration is a virtual necessity. But it should also raise concern when any speculation is drawn to forcing full public release of Whois information.