Doxing: what is it and what are your rights?
The sharing of someone else’s private information on the internet without their consent is known as ‘doxing’ and can have very dangerous consequences. It is a form of online harassment and there are legal options available to people who have been ‘doxed.’
This blog will set out:
- What doxing is
- How doxing happens in the context of gender-based violence
- What the law says
- How we can help
What is doxing?
‘Doxing’ is when someone publishes, or threatens to publish, private or identifying information about a particular individual without their consent. People are ‘doxed’ for a variety of different reasons, and doxing is often a way that online conflicts escalate into having real world consequences. Sometimes this violation of privacy is done as a form of revenge.
This can be perpetrated against public figures, or against private citizens, and is usually done with the intention of harassing, exposing, or causing financial harm to the target. The private information shared without consent could include the victim’s/ survivor’s real name, their email address, home address, or telephone number, or it could include documents/ files, such as bank statements, ID documents, or even images/ videos of the victim/ survivor (including those of an intimate nature).
Sharing this information could result in wide ranging consequences. For example, it could include someone signing another person up for different mailing lists to fill their email inbox with spam or encouraging strangers to send intimate images to the victim/ survivor.
Doxing and gender-based violence
In the context of gender-based violence, doxing can be used as a way to perpetrate abuse and cause fear and alarm. Gender-based violence relies on power inequalities which allow perpetrators to exert control. If an abusive relative, friend, or ex-partner no longer has access to someone after a relationship has broken down, they can look for ways to continue to exert control and continue the abuse, and they can use the victim’s/ survivor’s private information as a way to do this.
For example, an abuser could create a fake profile or post on social media posing as their ex-partner, encouraging strangers to send inappropriate sexual communications to their ex-partner's real phone number or email address.
Doxing and the law
In Scotland, there is no specific criminal offence of doxing. However, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, doxing may amount to an existing criminal offence, such as:
- Threatening and abusive behaviour
- Abusive behaviour towards a partner or ex-partner
- Improper use of public electronic communications network
Civil legal remedies
There are a number of other potential options available, including:
- Reviewing the online platform’s policies and reporting to these platforms
- Invoking the ‘right to be forgotten’
- Using copyright law to protect an image or video
- Applying to the civil courts for a protective order/ civil damages
- Complaining to an institution or employer (if the online harassment occurs in the course of employment or at college or university).
How we can help
If you have experienced sexual harassment online, including doxing, our specialist sexual harassment solicitor can provide you with information and advice. You can book a surgery appointment with our sexual harassment solicitor using our online booking system or call our helpline to request an appointment.