I generally share information about marketing strategies and lead generation tools. But this has been something bothering me for a while. I love social media but the concept of doxing is worrying me a whole lot these days. So what does doxing mean exactly? Doxing is a growing and worrying trend that is quickly becoming a practice of posting people’s personal information on the web without their consent.
The word ‘doxing’ was first heard in the world of online hacking back in the 1990s. It was a time where anonymity was deemed sacred. A rivalry between hackers would escalate when someone decided to “drop docs” on somebody else. This essentially means posting documents revealing the legal name of a person who had only been known as an alias before. “Docs” became “dox,” which in turn lost the “drop” and it eventually became a verb by itself.
Today, doxers try to reveal as much information that they can so that they eventually move their conflict with their enemies from the web to the real world. This may or may not include private house addresses, social security numbers, personal emails, and legal history. It could also be humiliating personal information. The goals of these hackers could be anything from intimidating or humiliating their victims or bring in loss of employment. It could also go to the extent of breaking off romantic relationships. I have even heard of it making the target a victim of harassment or assault.
What does Doxing Mean for Legal Proceedings?
The concept of somebody posting your personal address for anyone over the internet to see is quite terrifying. You might as well assume that it cannot possibly be legal in any country. This is true to some extent. Federal law restricts the publication of personal information about certain categories of people. This could include state or federal employees or officers as well as jurors. This may extend to witnesses or informants in trials or criminal investigations. There are cases where doxing is part of a larger campaign of harassment. Victims who don’t fall into those categories may be able to seek legal charges based on state or federal stalking legislation or file a civil suit for damages. However, it is important to note that this is a legal requirement set by the United States. The EU, India, and a few other countries still have to iron out their policies.
In few other cases, doxers have been known to put together chunks of information that their targets. These are later posted in public or shared on a social media website. Bringing that information together or drawing people’s attention to it is not technically illegal. If a doxer knows your legal name, then you should know that a surprising amount of information about you is already available in the public domain. This extends to your voter registration number, property cards, marriage and divorce papers, police mug shots, and much more.
Legal or Illegal?
These details are not only just a Google search away, but they can be obtained from government agencies quite easily. Often at a very negligible cost. The fastest way to finding and weaponizing personal information about a target is often at times to simply buy it. Whether from legal data sellers or from databases passed around on the onion web, you can derive it from the plethora of data breaches that afflict companies both large and small. If a doxer can connect their target’s full name, email address, or social media handle with a record in one of those databases, they can get a shit load of information that can then be posted publicly.
You will not be surprised to know that there are a few paid doxing as a service property on the web too. Getting legal relief against doxers can be difficult as it is very often not extremely clear what laws these doxers are breaking. Plus they usually take all the legal steps to obscure their own identity even as they expose yours. While this is intended to sound scary, the bright side is that doxing violates the terms of service of most social media platforms. So, if you start reporting tweets or Facebook posts that include your personal information they will get swiftly taken down. While the offending user won’t get arrested, his IP can get suspended.