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Doxing, sometimes spelled as Doxxing, refers to the practice of investigating and revealing a target subject’s personally identifiable information, such as home address, workplace information and credit card numbers, without consent. The word is derived from “docs,” which is a shortened term for “documents.”
The term “dox” was initially used by computer hackers involved in pirated software distribution to describe various documents relating to new updates, cracks or patches. Beginning in the early to mid-2000s, the term “doxing” 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 tactic used by members of Anonymous during their operations. In China and elsewhere, similar forms of privacy-invasive behaviors emerged through groups like Human Flesh Search Engine.
The act of publicly disclosing another Internet user’s personal information dates back to the 1990s on Usenet, where it became a common practice to post another poster’s personal information (or PI) during arguments and flame wars. In 1994, scandalous stories about legendary Usenet posters were shared in a four-part compilation via newsgroup alt.folklore.computers, however, these stories were largely limited to details about sockpuppet accounts and user profile information to expose their online activities outside of Usenet. This trolling tactic eventually came to a head in 1999, when owner of rec.skiing.alpine Scott Abraham was banned from the newsgroup by a Seattle court order after he had been found guilty of participating in a flame war and sharing personal information about other posters.
In October 2006, the YouTube channel Vigilantes was established to seek out personal information of YouTubers deemed hateful or racist in vlog format. The head of the group, CircaRigel, had all of her personal information leaked online by members of Encyclopedia Dramatica in January 2007 on the security issue newsgroup Full Disclosure, not only including her name and address, but personal posts she had made to the newsgroup alt.sexual.abuse.recovery.
In the following years, dozens of individuals were targeted and doxed by Anonymous-affiliated hacker collectives, including Chan Enterprises LLC, Lulzsec and Antisec among others. By 2008, the term had been defined as personal information leaked by a third-party on Urban Dictionary. “Dox” was added to Wikitionary in 2011, the same year that Doxbin launched, a TOR site that hosts dozens of files containing personal information on specific people as well as groups of people. As of October 2012, there are more than 34,100 results for “dox” on Pastebin.
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January 2007: Hal Turner
One of the first archived doxing campaigns targeted American white nationalist and blogger Hal Turner, who waged a war against Anonymous by disclosing the phone numbers of prank callers that had raided his radio talk show on-air in December 2006. In retaliation, a group of Anonymous members known as Chan Enterprises LLC launched a doxing investigation and managed to obtain Turner’s criminal record, housing details, former locations of residence and detailed personal information such as his home phone number. As a result of the feud, Turner filed lawsuits against 4chan, eBaums World and 7chan in January 2007, although all of the cases had been dismissed by December 2007.
October 2007: Chris Forcand
As early as in October 2007, members of Anonymous approached Chris Forcand, a suspected pedophile, under the pretense of being underage girls to collect evidence of him luring children in chatrooms. During one of these conversations, an Anonymous participant named “Jessica” was able to obtain Forcand’s mailing address, which soon led to uncovering of additional personal information about him. In December 2007, Forcand was arrested by the police after the information was passed on by anonymous tipsters.
January 2008: Scientology
During the Project Chanology in January 2008, Anonymous hackers launched a large-scale doxing campaign against the top-level members of Scientology, revealing their personal information as well as internal memos that had been circulating within the inner circle of the Church. An extensive collection of leaked documents can be found on the website Free Scientology Dox.
May 2008: Linden Lab Staff
In May 2008, members of a group named DiSSENTiON posted a YouTube video (shown below) stating their plan to attack Second Life users and release information on Linden Lab staff members in retaliation for treating users poorly. Members of the SLUniverse forum discussed the attack, where one of the users received a message stating “you fail at releasing dox” after attempting to leak information on someone’s fake name.
Encyclopedia Dramatica –
fn17, Pastebin – Search results for “dox”
The Smoking Gun – “Teenage Scientology Foe Charged”http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/teenage-scientology-foe-charged
International Business Times – Anonymous’s Operation Hiroshima: Inside the Doxing Coup the Media Ignored
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