What is Doxxing & Is Doxxing Illegal? Explained for 2023

Doxxing is a term you may be familiar with if you came across a celebrity or internet personality has complained about theft or misuse of their personal information and identifiable details. You’ve probably expressed your viewpoint or gotten into an argument with someone on social media or a forum about all this.

Doxxing isn’t just a problem for famous people; it’s also prevalent among the general population. SafeHome analyzes that over 43 million Americans have suffered from doxing at least once. Find out what doxxing is and how to avoid being doxed in the future by reading about it. You’ll also get some advice on what to do if you’re ever doxxed.

What does doxxing mean?

Understand Doxxing
Understand Doxxing | CyberGhost

Doxxing refers to stealing and spreading public and private information about an individual without that person’s knowledge or consent. Doxxing can also mean revealing the individual’s identity hiding behind a name on the Internet. It can be motivated by retaliation or harassment, but it can also be used to expose the identities of persons who anonymously promote hate speech online or in public.

Doxxing is not a recent concept; the practice dates back decades and can have serious consequences. Once a person’s home address, place of employment, phone number, email address, or other contact details are publicly available, they are an easy target for criminals.

These attacks can range from being harmless, such as fake pizza deliveries or mail sign-ups, to extremely hazardous, such as harassing a person’s family or employer or even resorting to physical violence.

Is doxxing illegal?

Is doxxing legal?
Is doxxing ilegal | FlexJobs

Whether or not a doxxing attack is legal depends on the information obtained and the outcome of the attack. Doxxing may be considered a crime under the law if the information was obtained unlawfully or if the attack was motivated by cyberbullying or harassment.

There have been casualties associated with doxxing in the United States. One person suffered a heart attack after his home address was posted online, and a swat team was mistakenly sent there. Even though he did not initiate the police contact, the person responsible for doxxing his address was given a 5-year term.

Is it against the law to give out someone’s private details? No, not quite. It is not always criminal to dox someone, as long as the material was obtained legitimately and was not part of a larger pattern of harassment or stalking.

Doxxing is illegal in most jurisdictions, yet it is not tolerated on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit. For example, Twitter forbids the public disclosure of another user’s private information without their express consent, making doxxing a violation of Twitter’s terms of service.

When is doxxing a Crime?

Doxxing under the law
Doxxing under the law | SouthChina MorningPost

Doxxing isn’t technically wrong because much of the information released is public knowledge. Doxers look a little harder than the average person would locate them. It is not criminal to publish a celebrity’s “personal” information unless it is used to threaten someone, steal their identity, or hack into their private email accounts.

Internet crime experts agree that doxxing is widespread, especially when a celebrity is involved. The only real effort required to obtain a person’s phone number or address is the periodic payment to a third-party web service. Although it takes more effort to steal someone’s social security number or access their credit record, it is nevertheless possible for someone with the right tools and knowledge to do so.

While no federal law explicitly prohibits doxing, the practice is gradually being construed as violating 18 U.S. Code 2261A (2015) – Stalking and California Penal Code 653.2 PC – Electronic Cyber Harassment.

How to prevent doxxing?

With doxing being so prevalent these days, you’re probably wondering what you can do to protect yourself. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best methods for avoiding doxxing here.

Set strong passwords on social media

A stronger password would include upper and lowercase characters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid employing the same password for many accounts and change them often. If you are having trouble keeping track of your passwords, consider using a password manager. Keep your online personas separate by using various usernames and email addresses on various sites.

Set up multi-factor authentication

Multi factor authentication
Multi factor authentication | Avast

The best way to secure your logins and online presence is by setting up multi-factor authentication (usually two-factor authentication). You can set it up on everything, including email, social media, and other communications apps and programs.

When your account is accessed from a new device, you will be prompted to enter a secondary identity, like a phone number and a username. When combined with a password, a PIN makes it far more difficult for cybercriminals to get control of a user’s devices or accounts.

Turn off location services on social media

Since some of the information you share on social media is accessible by anybody, you should disable location services. From there, doxers can follow your every move and harass you for any reason. Turning off social media location services is one way to avoid this.

Furthermore, be cautious about giving different permissions to third-party apps. Some apps ask for tracking of your location, gallery, and other connected devices. Make sure the app is trustworthy before allowing it to access your data.

Use caution with Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi Sign
Free Wi-Fi Sign | Lantech

It’s hard to say if the public Wi-Fi networks in airports and coffee shops are safe from prying eyes and malicious code. If you want to utilize a Wi-Fi network, you shouldn’t have to download any software, as doing so could put malware on your device, which could then be used to steal your personal information. So make sure you play safe while connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. It is better to avoid it and use cellular data instead.

Google yourself

Using the Internet to find out what’s out there requires next to no time or effort. You should search yourself on Google and see what information is present about you (this is an especially useful tactic for influencers and social media activists). Repeat this process with all of your other groups and social media accounts. A nonprofit organization that advocates for digital rights has published a guidebook called “self-doxxing” that might help you manage the information about you online.

Final Verdict

Doxxing is a problem that cannot be completely avoided due to the nature of the modern-day environment around us. Someone intent on violating your privacy may be capable of knowing enough about you to cause you harm. You can take precautions that will make it more difficult for them to accomplish their goal.

Doxxing is only illegal if the actual reason behind it is related to some crime, harassment, or blackmail. The best part is that taking these precautions can assist in safeguarding your information in the event of a data breach and will also benefit you in the long run. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamil Anwar


Kamil is a certified MCITP, CCNA (W), CCNA (S) and a former British Computer Society Member with over 9 years of experience Configuring, Deploying and Managing Switches, Firewalls and Domain Controllers also an old-school still active on FreeNode.
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