Doxing is a word that many may not have heard of, but may be familiar with, either as the perpetrator or as the victim. Doxing refers to the online practice of researching and publicizing personal information about a person with the intent to harm. Doxing could be simply revealing the real name of someone who blogs under a pseudonym or giving out a person’s phone number in a public forum. Since the popularity of social media, blogs, and other public groups, doxing has become more common. However, revealing personally identifying information online about a person can bring legal trouble.
In our world where information is available so quickly online, it can be easy to cross the line or even grasp that there is a line. After all, what is the problem with letting others know something that could easily be found in a Google search? The issue is the intent of the information. In the U.S., it is illegal to make public information with the intent to intimidate, harass, or harm another person. Regardless of how or where you found this information.
I have experienced doxing firsthand, as a particularly manipulative and angry individual stalked and harassed me online for months a few years ago. Under the guise of helping out another person, who she claimed I was bothering online, she proceeded to track my online whereabouts, search for personal information that would be damaging, and threaten to reveal or in a few cases actually divulge personal information; true and untrue. In her rage, she allowed her instinct to stand up for one person justify the cutting down of another. That is if protecting was her true reason for doxing at all because at its essence doxing is about going to great lengths to harm to another, not about helping others. Intuitively I knew that what she was doing was wrong on the basic level of human rights, but not understanding the laws against this at the time, I took no action against her. That will not happen again.
Whether you’re a public figure, a blogger, or just the average internet user, doxing is always wrong and illegal. If you find yourself the victim of doxing, the best way to combat it is to seek legal advice. Or, if at some point in time the idea crosses your mind to find personal information about a person to coerce, humiliate or shame them online, think again. It may create more problems for you than it solves.