What is doxing and how to protect our privacy online

On the Internet we can become victims of doxing, a phenomenon that pillories all our most confidential information. Here's how to defend yourself

On the Net, the search for anonymity is important to keep our privacy safe. It is not always possible to leave no trace of our passage on the web. In addition to the small mistakes we make when surfing the Internet, there are also threats such as doxing that risk spreading our data.

The word "doxing" or "doxxing" is a neologism and originates from "documents" or "dropping docs", eventually abbreviated simply as "dox". Doxing refers to the practice of searching, sharing and publicizing users' personal information on the web through a site, forum or social profile. Obviously, all of this takes place without the person having consented to the dissemination of their most confidential information on the Net. Most of the doxing cases pillory the addresses, contacts, photos, names of relatives and profession of the victims. Malicious people manage to retrieve this data through multi-level Net searches. That's why we must always pay attention to what we publish.

What is doxing

In addition to personal information, doxing is often used to publish compromising email addresses, political views and photos of a person. Especially if it is a social or political figure. It is important to understand that all of this information, such as a physical address, phone number or pictures, is already online.

Different types of doxing

The purpose of doxing is always the same: to put a person's information out there, almost always to make them look bad. However, there are different types of doxing. You can, for example, collect the information of a private person in a single site. Or you can publish online information available only in a person's private life. But it is also doxing to publish online comments and judgments extrapolated without informing the person concerned.

Why do some people dox?

As already mentioned, the purpose is to make a person look bad. Or to change the reputation of a famous person. It is no coincidence that the most important doxing attempts to date have been against well-known figures, such as models, actors, actresses or politicians. But there are also hundreds of cases of doxing against simple citizens. And often those who doxing are driven by a sense of revenge against the victim. That is, he wants to make public news that could damage the person's image and that he only knows about.

Is doxing illegal?

Doxing is not an illegal practice. Most online services and platforms have anti-doxing policies to keep their communities safe, but doxing cannot be considered as properly illegal. Since it is information that has already been disclosed. That said, posting personal information with the purpose of threatening, intimidating or damaging a person's public image could be considered as illegal actions.

How to defend yourself

Because information can be found online and offline anyone can be a victim of a doxing attack. And it is a threat from which it is not easy to defend yourself. Nevertheless, there are some actions we can take to limit our data present online. Let's start by paying more attention to what we post on social networks. Not only photos and statuses but also biographies on Facebook and Twitter can be used to generate a doxing attack. We then avoid posting our home address and cell phone on any web platform. We pay particular attention to the privacy updates that are constantly happening on services like Facebook or Google. We avoid these channels recording too much confidential data about us. If we frequently use forums and chat sites we avoid providing personally related information and use multiple usernames on the various sites we use.