Doxing – A Primer

Doxing (from dox, abbreviation of documents), or doxxing, is the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual.

The methods employed to acquire this information include searching publicly available databases and social media websites (like Facebook), hacking, and social engineering. It is closely related to internet vigilantism and hacktivism.

Doxing may be carried out for various reasons, including to aid law enforcement, business analysis, extortion, coercion, harassment, online shaming and vigilante justice.

So yes, doxing can be illegal, no matter who the target. The difference is when it is on the internet it is Federal, or State. When it is not via cyber space it is State issue/laws/ remedy only. Read this for an example. Both criminal activities.

“Doxing“ is a legal term that means revealing “documents” about a person. This can range from revealing the name of a person who uses an alias, but more commonly refers to revealing whatever the person doing it feels will harm, shame, humiliate, endanger, or put the person at some risk.

Doxing is a form of stalking or threatening and is illegal under many different federal and state laws, depending on the exact facts and location.

Revealing a “name” per se’ may, or may not be considered “Doxing” depending on the level of anticipated anonymity. However, in this law, the term “restricted personal information” means, “with respect to an individual, the Social Security number, the home address, home phone number, mobile phone number, personal email, or home fax number of, and identifiable to, that individual.” This is an important distinction to remember.

Once you outline the address or location of a person, within which a person can be placed at risk, YOU HAVE VIOLATED THE LAW.

This law is about acts that endanger the safety of, or encourage attacks against, a person or a person’s family. It is not about where you found the information.

18 USC § 119 : Doxing is always illegal, whether it is done against a federal employee, a state employee, or a regular person. There are federal and state laws that specifically address doxing government employees 18 U.S.C. Sec 371 (18 U.S.C. Sec 119). This particular statute is about US govt. personnel. See a sample case here.

When such acts are on the internet, they extend into all the states. Thereby allowing the victim to choose the state of filing which may, or may not, be the state of residence for the victim(s) or perpetrator(s).

Increasingly with internet use, attorneys are affirming representation to the state with the strongest current legal remedies for Doxing, Cyber-Stalking, or Harassment.

Misinformation was spread that doxing is legal. I am not sure how or why anyone fell for that misinformation. Surely, people must understand instinctively, even if they were misled about the law, that if they are threatening someone or putting them at risk, or tormenting or harassing the other on the internet, that this must be illegal.

Common sense would tell you that bullying or jeopardizing another would be illegal in some way. So yes, doxing is illegal, no matter who the target. The difference is when it is on the internet it is Federal, or State. When it is not via cyber space it is State issue/laws/ remedy only.

When you do something on the internet, it reaches into every state and you open yourself up to potentially being prosecuted under the laws of any state.

In addition, since it is being done in interstate commerce (the internet), you can be accountable under federal law.

Also, if you dox someone using an internet website or service such as Facebook or Twitter or most other such services, such as WordPress or Blogger, and your intent is stalking, cyber stalking, cyber-bullying, harassment, invasion of privacy, threatening, terroristic threatening, endangering the safety of, intentional infliction of emotional distress or intimidation, you are probably violating the Terms of Service under the media contract which binds your activity from your acceptance of the terms.

Violating the terms of service can actually be a federal crime, depending on the situation, and especially so when the terms are violated in order to harm a person.

READ: Doxxing: It’s Like Hacking, But Legal and The Problem With “Doxxing”