Doxing, a relatively new term, is the internet-based practice of searching and publishing private or identifiable information about an individual or organization, typically with malicious intent. This practice was coined in hacker culture in the 1990’s.
There are many ways to acquire this sensitive information, such as free databases available to the public and social media websites. The vast amount of private details you can learn about someone from doing your research is almost unbelievable. This can all be done without hacking skills. However, the more critical information, such as bank accounts, credit card numbers, etc, will probably require a bit of finesse that a hacker can easily provide.
People dox people for a wide array of reasons including, but not limited to, aiding law enforcement, extortion, coercion, online shaming, harassment, vigilante justice, etc. As a matter of fact, Twitter users are currently doxing the “white supremacists” who marched a few short weeks ago in Charlottesville.
It is fair to say that this practice is a huge violation of privacy and should not be used, regardless of the reason, nor should we celebrate the practice even if we find it just.
In July, just a few short weeks ago, there was another incident of not quite doxing, but the threatening to do so, that stands head and shoulder above the rest. Believe it or not, this threat was in response to a meme. Yes, you read that right, a meme.
A Reddit user by the name of “HansA**holesolo” created a gif animation, that shows President Donald Trump when he guest starred on a professional wrestling show body slamming a man who, instead of a face, had the logo for CNN on it. No big deal, right? Wrong. This meme went viral, catching the attention of none other than the POTUS himself, who, in a very Trump like fashion retweeted it.
CNN reacted by threatening to dox this Reddit user unless he released a public statement apologizing for this meme. At the fear of all of his or her personal information being released by a major mainstream media company, he did exactly what they asked. After the apology was released, the headline on CNN’s homepage read “After being contacted by CNN, Reddit user whose video Trump retweeted apologizes.”
So after they threaten to dox this man or woman, they brag about it on their homepage. But that’s not all. If you read the CNN article on the subject it states:
“CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo's” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same. CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
This is blackmail. A mainstream news media outlet is threatening people who do not share their opinion and they are using the internet to do it. This cannot be allowed. A hacker doxing a person to get revenge is totally unacceptable, but a major new source? This is almost the opposite of freedom of the press.
It is occurrences like these that only strengthen the need to learn how to secure your information. The best way to combat internet predators is by learning what to do to keep your information safe and to speak out against companies or people who try to obstruct our use of the internet.