Anonymous Web Hosting
If someone wants to upload and run a website without revealing their personal information, a service that provides anonymous web hosting could be the solution. When a person registers a website, their information is stored with their registrar. This information can then be viewed by running a “whois” lookup on the site they want to know about. All a person needs to do is go to a WHOIS Lookup and enter the website’s domain name they are interested in, and they will get all kinds of contact information about the owner such as address and telephone numbers.
When someone registers a new website, many registrars offer a “whois protection” option where the owner’s information is not displayed during a whois lookup. The information on the whois protection agency is displayed instead. However, if there is a legal reason that someone needs the owner of a website, such as a court order, the protection agency must turn over the website owner’s information. This might cause someone who wants to remain anonymous to give false information to the registration service; however, that can also cause severe legal problems. The “Fraudulent Online Identity Sanctions Act” makes it “a violation of trademark and copyright law if a person knowingly provided, or caused to be provided, materially false contact information in making, maintaining, or renewing the registration of a domain name used in connection with the violation” (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:h.r.03754:). Because of this, domain registrars take steps to maintain accurate contact details of their customers. If a registrar tries to contact an owner at the fake information they provided, the owner will not reply to them, and the registrar could terminate the owner’s registration.
One way to stay hidden from such legal actions like court orders and subpoenas that require a registrar to reveal information is to choose a registrar or host that is outside of the jurisdiction of the courts of the country the owner wants to remain anonymous from. If a registrar does not have to follow the Fraudulent Online Identity Sanctions Act because they are outside the United States jurisdiction, then the registrar may not require the website owner to provide any personal information. Although overseas registration might prevent people or courts from obtaining whois data about a site, if the actual website is not located overseas, the site’s host can still be identified by various methods, including tracing the actual IP address of the site. Therefore it is important that the website is registered and also hosted overseas to remain anonymous. If an agency such as a government wants information about a particular website bad enough, they can use billing records related to a host or registrar to extract information about a particular website.
In summary, a simple private registration will protect someone from the average user looking for information, but it will not keep someone hidden from court orders. A person can provide bogus information to the hosting company but could risk having their site terminated. The way to become the most anonymous is to find a registrar and hosting company overseas outside the country’s legal jurisdiction they wish to remain anonymous from and use an anonymous form of payment. The level of anonymity a web host provides depends on how much the owner is willing to put into keeping it anonymous.