When you register a domain, it is much like buying a house and establishing an address at the post office. You are establishing an online address of sorts and whether you planned it or not, your home privacy is at risk if you do not purchase Whois privacy protection.
As defined on Wikipedia, “Whois is a query and response protocol that is widely used for querying databases that store the registered users or assignees of an Internet resource, such as a domain name, an IP address block, or an autonomous system...”
If you already have a domain, you can check your host account information to view and verify your current Whois information, or you can use a service like Freewho.com to search and retrieve the Whois information on your site.
A Whois report pulls up basic information on the registered domain and contact information. Basic information includes the domain name, registrar, Whois server, name servers, registration status, creation date, updated date (creation date, renewal date or transfer date if sold), expiration date and status. Contact information displayed on a Whois query is Registrant Contact, Administrative Contact, and Technical Contact. Note that some registrars require you to visit their site to retrieve complete domain details, GoDaddy is one).
This information is necessary for a number of reasons, mostly for others to be able to contact you about your site. If someone has a problem or legal issue with you or your site they may try to remedy it by reporting you to your registrar or host company information found on a Whois report. They may need to contact your technical department on some issue you are having with your site. The contact can be different for each area so designate two points of contacts if available.
To protect your privacy for any number of reasons, you can purchase a Whois privacy (known by various registrars as WhoisGuard or other names). The privacy masks your contact information and displays an email, phone, fax and address of the company providing the protection. If they are contacted for any reason about your site, you will be notified.
Whois privacy can be purchased at any time. Some registrars offer the service free for the first year. If you don’t have it and purchase it in the middle of a registration time period, make sure it is activated once purchased. Your registrar contact will receive a renewal notice for the Whois service when it is ready to expire.
If you are a business, with an established address, phone and email, displaying this information may not be an issue. However, if you work from home, or your site requires that you have a certain level of anonymity, Whois privacy protection is worth the cost (free to $10 depending on registrar).