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Doxing (dropping docs or doc-dropping, sometimes also spelled doxxing) is the practice of revealing personally identifying information (such as names, addresses, places of employment, relatives, etc.) of people who use the Internet, typically in a highly public manner as a call to arms against the target. One of the sad realities of the Internet is that there is an inexhaustible number of creeps and assholes looking for targets to harass, typically of a specific political opinion, religious view, social class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., etc. While commonly associated with malicious intent, especially towards aforementioned groups, it is very often seen as an act of "bringing justice" against people the doxxer and their self-righteous audience disagree with or perceive as being unjust.
In the case of poorly-done detective work or targets with common names, this can bring real pain to innocent people who aren't even related to the original situation. While doxing can lead to simple trolling, such as calling in pizza orders or prank calling, in more malicious cases doxing is a prelude to SWATing.
In the original definition, doxing requires hacking, or tricking someone into revealing information unwittingly. To a lesser degree, it also includes detective work piecing together information the target has revealed about themselves but which is obscure. It is also often considered doxing to widely publicize information the target has released themselves in the past, but which is for some reason currently not generally known or connected with a pseudonym. What constitutes doxing and what doesn't is currently hotly debated; often times along the lines of tribalism (we don't dox, but the others do!).
The perpetrator may look for something innocent as a profile picture of a social media link on a public account (YouTube, Reddit, etc.) and see if they can trace it back to something more identifiable, like a Facebook account. After finding the person's name and city, they can use "people finder" or "white pages" websites to find more info, including home address, telephone numbers, and date of birth. If the person has legally changed their name, court records can be used to find former names. If the person got a traffic ticket, the perpetrator can find out what kind of car they drive and/or the license plate number. Finally, all the information is either published on a stalker forum or blog, or compiled into a list for mass distribution.
An example dox may look like this: ExampleAccount404's real name is Natalie Morgan Smith. She was born as Alan Edward Smith on 32 Octember, 1969. She works at No Fun Incorporated and went to school at the University of Education. Her telephone number is 1-555-867-5309 and she lives on 123 Fake Street in Nowhere, California.
Once the information is public, it can be used for evolution knows what. The perpetrator may call the employer and cost the victim his or her job. In more extreme cases, the information can be used for prank-calling the police and sending authorities to raid the victim's house.
- Set all personal social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) to "private" or "friends only".
- Never use your middle name on Facebook. Also, set your city to "friends only". If they have your name and city, they can find your address.
- Since profile pictures are typically public, exercise caution. Use a drawing or edit your photo so you aren't recognizable by reverse image search. Snapchat filters are perfect for this. Also, never use the same profile picture for two sites.
- Never post a picture of yourself on Reddit or any public forum.
- Never give out any social media links on public forums.
- Only use your birthday if you have to.
- On YouTube, avoid posting videos that make easy targets for conservatives. If you are LGBT, "coming out" and "transition timelines" are usually targets for alt-right trolls. If you must, set them to "unlisted" and share them with friends on Facebook.
- Never accept a friend or follow request from someone you don't know.
- Who is harmed by a "Real Names" policy? These are all security issues arising from merely revealing a target's name.
- Jessi Slaughter, an infamous case of doc-dropping widely reported in the news.
- Reddit's Tales from Retail was recently featured in a case of dox-dropping, when a disgruntled waitress posted the personal information of a supposedly homophobic customer on Reddit. The customer sued, and the waitress was fired, reminding everyone that dox-dropping can also result in a backlash for the person that dropped the dox.
- "Racists Getting Fired" and the Desire to Do Something about Ferguson, an article by OnTheMedia discussing a new Tumblr blog devoted to doxxing and reporting racist behavior on social media to employers.
- "Turning over a rock and exposing slime to the light" by PZ Myers
- "The Top 10 Reasons to Ban Me from Bay Area Science Festival" and "Why I’m Okay with Doxing" by Rebecca Watson, in reference to the above
- Amanda Hess, "The Next Civil Rights Issue: Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet, Pacific Standard Magazine
- Anonymous Threatens to Doxx Police Officers in Response to Darrien Hunt's Death
- Truth, Lies, and 'Doxxing'; The Real Moral of the Gawker/Reddit Story, Wired.com
- ‘Racists Getting Fired’ exposes weaknesses of Internet vigilantism, no matter how well-intentioned., Washington Post
- The People the Internet Thinks are the Lizard Squad, Vice.com