“Doxing”—when your personal photos and details are shared without your consent, often for malicious purposes.
The term “doxing” or “doxxing” is short for “dropping dox,” “dox” being short for documents. Typically, doxing is a malicious act, used against people with whom the poster disagrees or dislikes.
This public exposure of personal data, sometimes including intimate videos or images and contact information, has been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, it was an issue long before then.
New study reveals a rise in doxing
A concerning new report from cybersecurity company Kaspersky reveals that 24% of people in Great Britain have shared nude or explicit material with people they’ve never met in person. A third have shared nude or explicit material with people they’re dating or chatting with online.
Kaspersky’s report also examines dating apps specifically, and found that 1 in 6 people admit to having been doxed after they shared their personal information with someone on an app.
Further, 11% of people reported they’ve been doxed while dating online but didn’t realize it was happening.
The point of sharing these stats is this: you or someone you know has been a victim of doxing, you’re not alone.
The connection between doxing and porn
This rise in nonconsensually sharing explicit, personal information is a concerning trend. And the unfortunate fact is that publicly exposing someone’s private details has also become normalized in our culture through porn.
Porn glamorizes and fantasizes nonconsensual sexual acts and abuse, yet consuming it is considered completely normal—even though many of the top themes in porn are laced with rape, upskirting, revenge porn, and more.
All it takes is a quick visit to the homepage of a top porn site to see dramatizations, or sometimes real, depictions of people being filmed without their consent. Privacy invasion is a fantasy genre in porn, and it’s having real-world ramifications.
It’s popular for porn consumers to dox the individuals, often women, who appear in any given video on a porn site. “Unmasking” the real identity of who is depicted in video can be an appealing challenge whether that person is a professional performer or victim of exploitation.
For example, many sex trafficking survivors who were exploited through porn production company GirlsDoPorn have had their personal details leaked on porn sites which has resulted in chronic harassment, threats, and stalking by those who have viewed the videos.
How to prevent yourself from being doxed
Even though revenge porn is criminalized in several countries, and could become a federal crime in the United States, doxing is not generally criminalized though it can have seriously devastating impacts on victims.
This is an issue that clearly needs more public attention and awareness—particularly in regards to how individuations can protect themselves from online threats, and the risks of doxing that can translate into their physical lives, too.
In the report, Kaspersky specifically addresses the risk of “oversharing” personal information on dating apps, messaging services, and social media.
“This propensity to easily send explicit material means that images, videos, and text conversations can often be saved and shared with anyone at all times, putting the material at risk should devices be hacked, whilst having detrimental consequences to the victim’s social and professional life.”
And what we’re seeing isn’t just invasions of privacy. Publicly sharing people’s personal data can also have serious effects on victims—like paranoia, depression, and exposure to stalking and various forms of abuse.
Author and advocate Gina Martin, one of the key players in making upskirting—or taking a picture under a person’s clothing without their knowledge, illegal, commented on image-based sexual abuse and it’s threat to women and marginalized genders.
She describes revenge porn and doxing, as “a new way to “a new way to execute an old problem—the control of women, often through consensual sexualization of their bodies.”
She also spoke to victims, emphasizing that “this is never your fault, and you should be able to exist online as you want; just add some preventative and protective steps so you can live your digital life to the fullest.”
Doxing can happen to anyone, and Kaspersky shares precautions you can take to prevent being doxed—particularly when sharing personal information online.
Carefully consider before you post online. Be especially mindful of who you share your personal information with, including images, personal details, or your location. Consider how the content you share online could be used or interpreted by others, and the possibility of it ending up in unintended hands.
Avoid sharing private data on a public or unsecured internet connection. Consider which messenger platforms have end-to-end encryption. Check the permission settings on the apps you use, including the possibility of your data being shared or stored by third parties.
What to do if you’re a victim of doxing
If you think you’ve been doxed, there are important steps you can take.
First, keep all available evidence. Report it to the police and to the online platforms where you believe your data has been shared.
If you’re experiencing image-based sexual abuse, there are also organizations available to help you report and remove the content.
If you’ve been a victim of doxing, revenge porn, or threats to share your intimate images and information, you can access support by contacting the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) Crisis Helpline at 844-878-2274.
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