How can I find the real owner of a website?
— T. Dorji
Dear T. Dorji,
Indeed, website ownership is often more than meets the eye and some detective work might be needed. Start by visiting the website. If the website has an “About us” or “Contact us” page, the answer to your question might appear right there. Some website owners, however, do not provide that information on the website. In that case, your next best bet is to try and find out who owns the domain name for the website (the domain name is the address that you enter in the browser, for example www.google.com).
whois.domaintools.com, enter the website address, and hit Lookup. If the lookup was successful, you will find plenty of information about the owner, which might include their address and phone number. For example, when you look up www.google.com, you will find that the owner is (surprise!) Google Inc. in Mountain View, California.
Sometimes the output from the lookup will send you to another website, requiring an additional step to uncover the ownership information. For example, if you search DomainTools for www.bpc.bt, you will get the following response: “For more information, please visit http://www.nic.bt”. That’s the case with all Bhutanese domains. The website www.nic.bt indeed has ownership information for Bhutan-registered websites, and it will tell you that bpc.bt is registered by Pema Tshering of Bhutan Power Corporation in Thimphu.
Some website owners do not like the idea of having their personal details available online, so they use a domain privacy service. In such cases, the website owners’ details in the WHOIS database are replaced by the name of a company which acts as their proxy. Popular domain privacy services include “Domain by Proxy” and “Domain Privacy Services”. To find out who is behind a privacy-protected domain, you will need to contact the owner’s proxy and convince them why you need the name of the domain owner. If you have a good reason (for example, the website is doing something illegal), and a good lawyer, you might be successful.
Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org