The disclosure of foreign data is increasingly becoming a means of intimidation. Numerous politicians, journalists and celebrities are currently confronted with the problem that private data about them circulate on the Internet. These are mainly addresses, contact information or private documents. Exposing others on the Internet in this way is a phenomenon that has been given the name “Doxxing”. The term derives from “Docs”, the English abbreviation for “documents”.
Although such data, as in this case, have little political significance, their publication can have serious consequences. A Youtuber, for example, reports to Vice about harassment by telephone by strangers.
Another problem is that the material disclosed may contain false information, but is taken at face value by many. Another artist explained that information about him was outdated. Another stated that material had been added to his record that did not originate from himself and apparently served to discredit him. Dangerous consequences “Doxxing” was once a practice used by rival hacker groups against each other. In the meantime, however, it is also frequently used as a weapon in other contexts. The data can be misused, for example, to gain access to further information via identity theft.
Digital “exposure” also serves to intimidate people
A few months ago, the case of the artist Schlecky Silberstein showed how this works. He had reenacted scenes from a demonstration in Berlin for a satire video called Volksfest in Saxony in order to parody the mass protests in Chemnitz after the murder of a young man. The AfD then published footage of the shooting on Facebook and claimed that a demonstration video had been forged to discredit the protest. Outraged users then called for the team’s staff to be identified.
Silberstein received verbal abuse and death threats. His private address also became public. The AfD produced a video with the Berlin faction leader Frank-Christian Hansel, who drove to Silberstein’s apartment and wanted to confront him. As part of the so-called “Gamergate” campaign, private data was also published, mainly from female journalists and players, who were then confronted for years with threatening calls or rape requests on social networks. Some reported that the situation even forced them to change their place of residence for their own protection. There is no clear political direction to the phenomenon.
- In 2017, left-wing activists in the USA called for the identification of followers of a neo-Nazi march. A university professor from Arkansas was wrongly suspected of supporting right-wing extremist groups.
- A reputation that can quickly have devastating consequences for professional and private life.
- Meanwhile, organizations such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of Press are also warning of the dangers of doxxing and giving recommendations for journalists to take action to protect themselves.
- Security experts such as Bruce Schneier, who works for IBM as a consultant, assume that the phenomenon will continue to intensify in the future. Legislators are concerned about the issue of headaches.
- The publication of names and addresses is not necessarily illegal if the sources of the data are publicly accessible.