Around 15 percent to 25 percent of domain names have been registered in a manner that limits the amount of personal information available to the public through WHOIS queries, according to the preliminary results of a report from domain name regulator ICANN.

Domain owners who want to limit the amount of personal information available to the public generally use a privacy or a proxy service. A privacy service lets the registrant limit the amount of personal information available via a search in a WHOIS database, while proxy services register domain names on behalf of registrants.

It's the use of these two services that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has surveyed, the organisation said on Thursday. The main objective of the study -- which was based on a random sample of 2,400 domain names registered under .com, .net, .org, .biz and .info -- is to establish baseline information to inform the ICANN community on how common privacy and proxy services are.

ICANN now is seeking community comments, which can be filed until 6 November, on the report.

But ICANN isn't just taking a closer look at how secretive domain owners are. On 28 September it announced plans to conduct a study into the misuse of public data available via WHOIS searches and in June it announced a study of domain name WHOIS contact data accuracy.

Information from WHOIS searches can be used by spammers, but at the same time correct information is necessary when pursuing cybersquatters and cybercriminals.