What is "Doxxing" & Is It Illegal?
The internet has changed the way we interact with each other. However, this newfound ability has also come with some consequences: while we’re now more connected than ever, we’re possibly more at risk than ever before as well. In fact, privacy and protecting sensitive information is now immensely more difficult, and private information seems to be exposed fairly frequently. However, private information doesn’t usually get blasted out to millions of prying and possibly-malicious eyes on accident—it’s usually put there by somebody with the intention of ruining the victim’s life or subjecting them to immense harassment and even threats.
The gathering of this information and posting it online is known as “doxxing.” The name is a derivative from the word “document” which is intended to represent information containing private data that’s then exposed to the public. In this day and age, having this information published can lead to all sorts of problems; public figures have needed to hire round-the-clock security or even uproot their lives and move as a result of people stalking them, sending them violent or death threats, even showing up at their house with an angry mob in tow.
Legal Repercussions of Doxxing
Sometimes perpetrators will publish this information online as retribution for the victim’s actions—a sort-of revenge tactic. Other times they’ll do it purely out of spite for that person, which is often the case with politicians and public figures who are victims. Other times the information is released by someone who has become so obsessed with the victim they will do just about anything to get to them, which happens all too frequently to celebrities.
What all of these people have in common is that they rarely consider the consequences of their actions. While doxxing is a fairly new trend, the laws are actually quite clear about what is legal and what isn’t. Technically, it’s not against the law to find somebody’s publically available information and re-post it elsewhere online. However, there are points where this conduct crosses the line into illegality.
First, if the information was obtained through illegal methods, such as hacking, the publication of this information becomes illegal. Second, if the information is posted with the intent of harassing the victim, intimidating them, invading their privacy, or having them assaulted, or inspiring or instructing someone else reading the information to do any of these things, the publication of the information is against the law. It is possible for doxxing in this way to be prosecuted as assault, as the intent was to intimidate someone or threaten them with violent conduct. The laws will more than likely change in the near future as this trend becomes even more worryingly common, but even until then the consequences for a full conviction can be severe.If you find yourself facing criminal charges for an internet-based offense, seek counsel from an experienced Bergen County criminal defense attorney. Pick up the phone and call Brickfield & Donahue today at (201) 574-7919 to request a consultation.