Internet information has allowed millions to enhance their learning and allow them to share information. It has also allowed for the sharing of specious and harmful information. Advertising and marketing industries have benefited and will continue to benefit into the future by this medium of information, surpassing the television. Yet, what is concerning to many clients, is the amount of indexed personal information that is available to read on the Internet about someone or any business. Reputations are affected. With the benefits of the abundance of information available on the web there is also the risk to privacy and possible torts. Indeed, there is a lot to be said about the amount of information available on the Internet. Many are surprised on how their information got on the Internet and the ease with which public information and personal information can be retrieved and researched. It goes without saying about how freely users of social media disclose their personal information. Some personal information may seem benign and harmless but put together with key identifying credentials and someone’s life is open for all to read on the Internet. Data brokers play an integral role in the vast amount of aggregated information that floats around the Internet.
What others do with the available information on the Internet about someone presents the malady of doxing. Why would it be important to anyone to know that a particular individual had a speeding ticket fifteen years ago, other than to a potential employer for employment involving driving? Why would anyone be interested that someone filed bankruptcy, other than an employer or a financial institution resorted to for a home loan? There is indeed a lot that is unsaid about Internet doxing and where the line crosses into cyber bullying and possible online defamation.
At first blush, one would consider that publicly accessible information is benign and does not have weight to its impact on the person. Furthermore, one would consider that the reporting of the researched information about someone is as well harmless, especially if the information is considered a public record. What is missed in that calculus is the use of the information and the motive for sharing the information on the Internet. What is also missed in that calculus is whether the information posted on the Internet about someone is factual and is it accurate. This consideration raises defamation and invasion of privacy questions that could very well render the poster of the Internet content liable to the exposed talked about person. Worse is when the person posting was negligent in posting on the Internet false information about someone. The careless disregard for the truth by the person posting information and content on the Internet about someone else runs a great risk of facing a solid defamation lawsuit including other defamation related counts. Such careless disregard for the truth is compounded when that person knew or should have known the truth to be other than what was communicated on the Internet.
Simply speaking, retrieving otherwise private information about someone on the Internet may cross the line and essentially be considered a form of harassment or cyber bullying. States across the United States have promulgated such provisions addressing cyberbullying and online harassment. Both California and New Jersey have vehemently addressed the problem with using the Internet to harass someone and New Jersey has even considered it a crime. It is also outlandish to collect a person’s home address, date of birth, and other personal information through an unauthorized background check and drop it into the Internet realm without permission. Such an act could face serious charges.
The damaging impact upon the doxxed individual is compounded by virtue of the Internet. The original post could be deleted from the Internet but there is also the possibility that the posted content goes viral with hundreds or thousands of views and comments cross-linking sharing the post. Of course, thus far this post has been referring to the indexed realm of the Internet that is captured by search engines such as Google, Bing, Yandex, Vimeo, Dogpile, and Yahoo, just to name a few. The far open and far reaching content in the unindexed Internet realm stands to linger for years on the Internet and available for anyone to read. As this post had briefly commented, the malady of doxing presents an unavoidable issue for everyone to wrestle with for years to come as information lingers on the internet as it is propagated further perpetuating its effect.