The internet has become the world's first stop for accessing knowledge, exchanging ideas and sharing information with people from all over the world. Over time our digital footprint (the things we say and do online) paints a very detailed picture of our real life identity. As we communicate across multiple platforms to learn, work and play we leave a trail of identifying and personal information. There is a risk that the information and content you share, may fall into the hands of strangers.
What is Doxing?
To dox refers to the process of gathering and publicly broadcasting personal or identifying information on the internet, typically with malicious intent. This information may be collected explicitly by someone searching through a profile, where a user has voluntarily shared these details on a public or private site, or implicitly through posts, comments and imagery that our followers may find.
The term “doxing” is effectively “document dropping” which means to retrieve documents/documentation about a particular person or company in order to learn more about them or build a profile of details that could be one day used against them for benefit.
How does doxing occur?
The internet is the worlds largest information repository. In its early stages, only tech savvy individuals could publish online. With social networking and publishing tools so easy to access today, many individuals turn to the internet to connect with others and curate information to those who follow them. This has opened up a space for people to share small (or large) pieces of information about themselves. We can learn a lot about an individual by collating the details which paint a full picture about someone to the point of even predicting future behaviours. Here are just a few ways your personal identifiable information may be indirectly be given away online:
Why do people dox?
Most people perform a form doxing out of general curiosity. We have all being guilty of Googling the name a person, harmlessly "Facebook stalking" or scrolling through a new friend's Instagram to see if we can learn more about them. We can start to gain insights into this person through exploring their listed interests, interpreting their posts or observing their behaviours through photo and videos. Unfortunately there are some individuals that use the information they collect on others online for the purpose of blackmailing or taking revenge by threatening to expose the information that they have gathered about the person.
What are the consequences of Doxing?
It can be embarrassing when your private data, imagery or information falls in the hands of people who are not intended to have access to such information. Things can worsen if the doxed information such as a person’s social activities, medical history, sexual preference and other private information is made public. This can have a serious threat to health, livelihood or relationships of the victim. In many cases it is difficult for authorities to prosecute offenders of doxing because the victim has themselves shared the information or details themselves publicly or privately.
How do people access my information?
Generally people don’t consider the implications of oversharing until it’s too late. Most information that has been accessed about you online is because you published it.
The following are some of the most commonly targeted pieces of information that can be easily obtained through doxing across social networking and gaming platforms, personal websites and blogs:
Proactive strategies to protect your personal information:
It’s important for digital citizens to take control of their own privacy and security by having a personal set of protocols. Here are our top tips:
What can I do if I am being threatened?
Do not succumb to threats. According to Australian law, if this behaviour is used to menace, harass, or offend (using a carriage device) it may be considered unlawful, therefore you should report it to the police. If you are being Cyberbullied or someone is threatening to expose an intimate image of you (image-based abuse) you can report this behaviour to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner via https://www.esafety.gov.au/report
Cyberbullying, harassment and threatening behaviour (including doxing) is against the Terms of Service of most online platforms. You can report the user directly to the platform, they'll usually suspend the person’s account, or force them to take the post down or delete the post in question.
The Final Word
Remember, over time, the information you curate online about yourself can provide a pattern of behaviour could be used against you in a threatening manner. The things that people could publish about you are the things that you you’ve already given away about yourself, so take control and think before you post.
The Cyber Safety Project are committed to staying current in this constantly changing digital world. These blog and vlog posts provide insight to families about new trends, potential dangers online and effective strategies to maintain safe and respectful digital behaviours for parents, children, schools and the wider community.