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We have discussed privacy concerning one’s own social media accounts, whether that means setting certain privacy settings or choosing not to share any personally identifying information.We have also discussed privacy in terms of social media giants collecting data in order to then use that information against us.

When a college student hears the phrase “online privacy,” it is probably in connection to photos and text they share on social networking sites that contain content they might not want their parents or employers to see. However, privacy is a huge issue that can have more considerable effects than unwanted eyes.

Doxxing is one of these issues that can have grave consequences. According to The Economist, the term doxxing is “short for [dropping] documents and refers to malicious hackers’ habit of collecting personal and private information, including home addresses and national identity numbers.” Most importantly, this information is not approved by the person to whom it belongs and is normally done against their wishes. What comes next is the worst part–the victim’s information is used to harass them, to make unwanted contact, and sometimes in extreme cases, even death threats.

Image Courtesy of Annaluz Cabrera

Image Courtesy of Annaluz Cabrera

The media has publicized many instances of doxxing. Sometimes the victim is doxxed as a result of their negative actions but sometimes victims are doxxed simply because others disagree with their opinion and just want to cause harm. There are also various levels of doxxing, from simply sharing victim’s social media usernames to very personal information such as their phone numbers.

This brings into question the notion of privacy. Whereas publishing someone’s phone number might be considered a certain violation of someone’s privacy as this is something they share with very few people, can sharing their usernames for social networking sites also be a violation? After all, a username is almost always public and can’t really be hidden.

Furthermore, if doxxed information can be easily found, then is it really private to begin with? Many social media users freely share personal information without thinking of the negative consequences that can come as a result. So if a user puts that information out there, then is their privacy being violated when this information is shared by others?

If this information is kept hidden, especially with privacy settings, then I can understand why this would most certainly be a violation. The only way someone could have attained this information would be through hacking, such as the infamous hacktivist group Anonymous sometimes does.

Is doxxing simply the result of users being too careless with their personal information? Are their complaints still valid if this information is easily attainable? Are people more aware of the danger of sharing too much information after hearing about doxxing on the news? And lastly, is there anything that can legally be done to prevent it (Doxxing is only illegal when it is used to threaten someone or to hack into accounts)?

Featured image courtesy of CDC/ Amanda Mills acquired from Public Health Image Library

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