Doxing personal information is a growing concern to all, to say the least. Personal information online is common, however, with the Internet being so prevalent. Many records are found online, such as, voting, property ownership, even bankruptcies, and new business filings. But what is doxing?
Doxing ‘may’ occur when someone publishes online someone else’s personal information, which can be their address, a phone (cell) number, email, place of work, some other piece of information personal to the person. The posting of someone else’s information ‘may’ be doxing contingent on other factors that need to be considered. Just posting someone’s public information would not be considered doxing.
A side from the source, the intent of the post should also be factored in. We all see how doxing has become so prevalent in the political landscape of our country. It is the prevailing means of seeking to denigrate someone else even your political opponent, former business partner, former spouse, or former partner, after a relationship break up. The ill intent of the poster is an important criteria.
The intent of the posting carries valued considerations. The long-term impact of being harassed online could lead someone to claim emotional distress or cyber bullying, or even concerns for safety. Posting someone’s personal identifying information (PII), such as a social security – this could be via email – is doxing and illegal. The publication of someone’s PII can easily be construed as having ill intent and can be demonstrated to have harassing import. Such an event carries possibilities for personal injury arguing harassment, invasion of privacy, violation of right of publicity, emotional distress, assault, and possibly defamation – libel (mistaken identity).
Doxing personal information may draw on aspects of stalking – cyberstalking. Federal law against stalking, may apply in doxing situation because of the harassing impact, intimidation effects of the posting, and the use of interactive computer service to effectuate the doxing.
The freedom that so many feel they have to exercise their freedom of speech is being done ignorantly, carelessly, and ruining the benefit of the free marketplace of ideas. The vengeance that we witness from the posting of online content is, in many ways, with ill intent and not to further constructive social dialogue. Someone’s personal information, though not being PII, for purpose of humiliating the person because, say they filed bankruptcy 15 years ago, or had a divorce, or had failing business dealings, is mostly to denigrate the person, and that does have legal consequences. Posting abut someone else may not be harmless as way too many fail to fathom.
There are permutations to posting online that relate to doxing, such as ‘swatting’. Swatting is when a fake call is made to cause the police to go the someone’s domicile under the pretext that there was a crime committed or any socially concerning act that required law enforcement attention to prevent harm to others. There is also ‘sextortion’ that involves the use of sexual photos of someone to threaten the person or demand money.
All in all, it is noteworthy to recognize someone’s expectation of personal infomation privacy. The term “restricted personal information” should be considered because of someone’s expected privacy of such information in an open society. It is reasonable to assume the privacy – anonymity – of where someone lives, and expect that someone’s domicile not be publicly known, along with the expected privacy someone’s, email, telephone number, place of work, and personal history.
Doxing personal information, among its sibling’s, trolling, cybercrime, harassment, and stalking, are becoming an epidemic that is destroying the fabric of our society. The Internet and mobile communications have given everyone an easier means to communication, learn and due research and be entertained, but all too many have resorted to its useful capability of weaponizing digital communications. For that reason, federal and state laws are developing and there is effort to strengthen existing ones to punish doxing.
 18 U.S. Code § 2261A – “Whoever— (2) with the intent to kill, injure, harass, intimidate, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person, uses the mail, any interactive computer service or electronic communication service or electronic communication system of interstate commerce, or any other facility of interstate or foreign commerce to engage in a course of conduct that— (A) places that person in reasonable fear of the death of or serious bodily injury to a person …; or (B) causes, attempts to cause, or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress to a person … shall be punished as provided in section 2261(b) of this title.”