Doxxing: Key Internet safety risk & what to do about it

You may’ve heard the term “doxxing.” It’s where online harassment can spill over into the offline kind, increasing risk of harm to whoever’s being targeted, regardless of age, race, gender, etc. The form it usually takes is public exposure of the target’s personal information – street address, phone number and other records – and, as we’ve seen in the news lately, it’s “often accompanied by threats of violence, sexual assault or murder,” reports Ken Gagne in

“Many women gamers and developers, as well as those who support them, have lately come under attack from online trolls,” Gagne adds, referring to another term you may’ve heard of late (especially if there are gamers at your house): “#gamergate.” Harassment associated with doxxing can be unnerving, often traumatizing, because harassers know where the target lives or how to reach him or her offline. Some targets have moved house or left jobs because of it. Gagne does a great job not only of linking to background info on all this but also of showing you how to make your personal information a whole lot less public. It’s a hassle, but he writes that, in “an hour or two,” you can get your personal info deleted from the 11 most commonly used databases of that info (like those old white pages, except with worldwide information available worldwide – there’s even one called “White Pages”).

Gagne provides his criteria for choosing these 11 data brokers among the hundreds of them on the Net, and he explains how to get your data removed from them, step by step, so check out his article. The one caveat is that there’s nothing once-and-for-all about this. As soon as you change your address or phone number, you’ll need to check and see if they’ve appeared in the databases, which is often the case, so you may have to go through the process more than once.

“It’s almost impossible to remove all traces of your existence from the Internet – but with these steps, you can at least feel safer in your own home,” Gagne writes. This is a solid first step, and if you want to go further, he also links you to all three parts of Computerworld’s “The paranoid’s survival guide.”

Related links

  • Other kinds of attacks: information hoaxes, online conspiracy theories, information cascades (when lots of people quickly share/”retweet” information they haven’t checked out), all described by someone who has been a target of all the above, Anita Sarkeesian, Anita Sarkeesian, in a talk at the XOXO Festival in Portland, Ore., this fall.
  • The Dangerous Speech Project: how group violence happens and guidelines for preventing it (possibly also for preventing mass-scale online harassment). Founder Susan Benesch teaches human rights at American University in Washington, D.C.; the project’s program coordinator Tonei Glavinic founded the Transgender On-Campus Nondiscrimination Information Project (TONI) Project at
  • “Lessons in Mass Collaboration” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review
  • “When online and offline worlds clash” among 9-to-16-year-olds, insights from young people themselves, in their words, from EU Kids online (more to come on this)