Protecting your information, especially in the age of technology, is more challenging than ever. When personal information is shared without consent, it is a significant violation of a person’s safety and peace of mind.
Personal information that is shared with the intent to harm another can be particularly distressing to the victim. This type of harassment is called doxing. Thanks to a recently passed law, doxing is now illegal in Illinois and victims can take action against their attacker in civil court.
In This Article:
- What is Doxing?
- Protections Under New Anti-Doxing Law in Illinois
- How Can Doxing Harm a Victim?
- What is Not Covered Under the Anti-Doxing Law?
- Can You Sue Someone for Doxing?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Doxing
What is Doxing?
Doxing (or doxxing) is a type of cyberbullying or online harassment in which personal information is shared on the internet with the intent to harm or harass another. Derived from the term “dropping documents (docs),” doxing first made an appearance in the online hacker community in the 1990s. Feuding hackers would “drop docs” on their rivals to “out” their username or alias. Now, although many of us use our real names online, doxing can still cause harm by revealing a person’s private information.
One important term to note is ‘personally identifiable information’ which, according to the new law, refers to “any information that can be used to distinguish or trace a person’s identity, such as name, prior legal name, alias, mother’s maiden name, and date or place of birth in combination with any other information that is linked or linkable to a person.”
Personally identifiable information may also include:
- Home address
- Social security numbers
- Bank account information
- Workplace details and location
- Academic or business record
- Credit card information
- Medical information
- Criminal history
- Personal photos
- Private messages or email
There are many reasons one may engage in doxing, but more often than not, it’s for revenge or retaliation. This means that anyone can be a target of doxing for any reason. Something as simple as using someone’s name in a meme
Protections Under New Anti-Doxing Law in Illinois
The Civil Liability for Doxing Act (Public Act 103-0439) is a new anti-doxing law recently passed in Illinois. While Governor Pritzker signed and approved the bill on August 4th, 2023, the law will not go into effect until January 1, 2024. The law allows doxing victims to take civil action against their attacker to recover damages. To take civil action, the following should be true:
- An individual intentionally publishes another person’s information without consent.
- The person whose information is published can, in fact, be identified by that information.
- The person posting personally identifying information does so with the intent to harass or cause harm and knows (or recklessly disregards) that the person whose information is published may suffer harm as outlined in the act.
- The published information causes a person to suffer economic injury; emotional distress; fear of bodily injury or death to oneself and loved ones; or substantial life disruption.
The act also allows the court to issue protection orders for victims whose safety may be at risk due to doxing. This could mean an emergency order of protection, a temporary restraining order, or an injunction to prevent and restrain the continued disclosure of a person’s information.
How Can Doxing Harm a Victim?
The thought of your personal information being accessible to anyone is unsettling. We go to great lengths to protect our personal information, so it should be no surprise that doxing can cause significant harm to a person. A few examples of harm that may be caused by doxing include:
- emotional distress
- stalking and harassment
- identity theft
- job loss
- substantial life disruption
Knowing that your information may be accessible to anyone on the internet is a distressing thought. Victims of cyberbullying such as doxing are often at greater risk of depressive symptoms, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. Being doxed may also cause social embarrassment or rejection.
If you or your loved one is a victim of doxing, consider speaking with a therapist who can help you navigate the emotional distress of this violation. It may also be helpful to reach out to a lawyer who can help you understand your legal rights and protections. Your feelings are valid and you deserve to find a path toward feeling safe again.
Stalking and Harassment
Stalking and harassment are some of the more dangerous consequences of doxing. A doxxer may share personal information with the intent to lead others to the victim. Stalking can take a significant toll on a person’s mental, emotional, and even physical health, putting the victim’s family in harm’s way as well. Fortunately, the new act offers more ways for the court to interfere on behalf of doxing victims who are being stalked and harassed.
In some cases, especially when sensitive information such as a social security number or home address is shared, doxing can put the victim at higher risk of identity theft. This kind of risk is often a source of anxiety for people who have had their information shared.
Dealing with identity theft is a headache and can lead to other financial issues for the victim. The aftermath of identity theft may require the victim to spend time, energy, and money rectifying the issue.
There’s no telling what kind of information may be shared when a person is doxed. That information could lead to other major consequences for the victim such as job loss. If you have been doxed and the information shared causes you to be laid off or lose work, you may be owed damages from the person who shared that information knowing it may cause you harm.
Substantial Life Disruption
The Civil Liability for Doxing Act uses the term “substantial life disruption” to describe any type of harm that may cause significant disruptions in a person’s life whose information has been shared. This includes (but is not limited to) having to move from home to protect yourself or your family, changing your route to work, missing work, or changing your work schedule or other routines.
What is Not Covered Under the Anti-Doxing Law?
While the new law offers many protections for Illinois residents in case of doxing, there are a few things that are not covered under the law. Sharing personally identifiable information is not illegal if:
- someone is providing another person’s information while reporting criminal activity to a law enforcement agency.
- information is shared when reporting an incident that is believed to be unlawful.
- the sharing of a person’s personal information is connected to activity that is protected under free speech laws in the United States Constitution and Illinois Constitution.
Ultimately, to determine if you have a case, it’s best to contact an attorney well-versed in the new anti-doxing laws and other cyberbullying laws in the state. They can help determine whether you have a case or not.
Can You Sue Someone For Doxing?
The short answer is yes. Once the law goes into effect, you may be able to sue someone for publishing your personal information and recover damages for the harm they have caused. However, you should not have to go it alone. An experienced personal injury attorney will know exactly the steps to take to win your case and maximize your compensation.
The cost of lost wages, relocating your family for protection, or therapy for emotional distress — you should not have to bear the burden of these expenses, your attacker should. At Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers, we are on a mission to stand up against the harmful impact of cyberbullying in our community. We are committed to fighting for victim’s rights and we are prepared to take a stand against doxing when the new law goes into effect.
If you or your loved one has suffered this type of harassment, do not hesitate to reach out to us today for a FREE case evaluation. Call (312) 600-6000 and find out why so many say… Larry wins!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Doxing
Doxing is a topic many may not understand. Ultimately, speaking with an attorney about your specific case is the best step forward. But to get you started, here are a few frequently asked questions (FAQs) on doxing.
I’ve been the target of a vicious meme. Is this considered doxing?
Yes. A meme may seem harmless at first, but it almost always involves using someone’s personally identifiable information. Publishing even a person’s name may be a violation of this new law.
For example, let’s say that someone publishes your name on Instagram or Facebook in a post that says “Make him famous” or “This professor supports this view, boycott her.” This involves the sharing of your information without your consent and may cause harm. If you are a victim of this type of cyberbullying, reach out to one of our attorneys who can determine if you have a case.
I haven’t been stalked or physically harmed by doxing. Can I still file a lawsuit against my attacker?
Yes. You do not have to show that you have been stalked or physically harmed by being doxed, simply that you were the target of this type of harassment.
Can I file a lawsuit on my own?
Generally, we advise against filing a lawsuit without a legal professional. Being a new law, it may be more difficult to navigate without an expert on the topic. Additionally, an attorney will be able to maximize the compensation you deserve.
Do I Have to Wait Until the Law Goes Into Effect to Contact a Lawyer?
No. Although the new law does not go into effect until January 1, 2024, you can still contact a lawyer now about your case and how to move forward. The sooner you get started on the process, the better.