Doxing is the practice of tracing or researching personal documents of others with the intent to publish them online. The methods employed in pursuit of this information range from searching available public databases and social media websites, to personal profiles. Doxing is a commonly used tool of the cyber harasser and cyber stalker because it can be easily used to intimidate a target by threatening the release of their personal information to the public. The doxer many times will not release the obtained personal information themselves but rather hand it off to other groups of individuals who will then use it against the target. This is a method of social engineering where groups or institutions can be manipulated to believe or act against a target based on the leaked documents, keeping the original perpetrator safe from legal retaliation.
The term “dox” was initially used by computer hackers involved in pirated software distribution to describe various documents relating to new updates. Beginning in the early 2000s, the term became associated with the act of leaking an individual’s personal information for retaliation or vigilantism. In the late 2000s, it rapidly grew into a harassment and intimidation tactic.
Doxing is also a form of privacy invasion. Because society is largely computer based, any information about an individual can theoretically be accessed remotely through the internet. Also, with advances in online search engines, it is possible to obtain personal information about anyone for minimal cost. Doxing is associated strictly with negative behavior and goes hand in hand with several sectors and violations of online abuse.