An anonymous domain is a website with registration information connected to a proxy, rather than the actual owner, to conceal the owner's identity. This can also be known as a private domain. Some domain registrars offer a privacy option for a slightly higher fee than a conventional registration. Critics of anonymous domains argue that they can create a safety threat and nuisance as spam domains, while others argue that they may serve an important function for people concerned about safety and security online.
The level of anonymity available can vary depending on the domain registrar. In some cases, people register the domain through a proxy that retains their information and will provide it on request. The domain is anonymous in the sense that a casual look-up of domain information online will not provide the necessary information, but it is obtainable by contacting the proxy. Other proxies take anonymity more seriously, and in some cases create layers of security so they don't even know the identity of the real site owner, and thus cannot disclose this information.
Internet users may want to register an anonymous domain because of concerns about spam and unwanted contact sent to the contact information associated with the domain. Others may have personal safety concerns; activists, for example, may not want contact information circulating because this could expose them to risks. Anonymity may be a particular concern in nations with repressive regimes, where critics of government policies and social issues may become targets, unless they can safely conceal their identities.
One disadvantage to an anonymous domain is that it can be used to distribute spam, malicious software, and other harmful or irritating materials with minimal consequences for the owner. While it is possible to take action against the registrar and the host, this can take time, and the spammer can move on to another anonymous domain after losing the first. Critics of anonymous domain registration argue that most of these sites are nuisances, and that the legitimate reasons for needing anonymity are so limited that they could be better met in other ways.
People seeking anonymous domain registration may want to do their research carefully if true anonymity is desired. They should determine what kind of information a registrar collects, and when it might release that information. The location of hosting can also be important, as some hosts may be legally obliged to surrender information, while others can operate more autonomously and can resist subpoenas and other demands for information.