Doxing: how to stop your personal photos and details from being shared without your consent
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Doxing: how to stop your personal photos and details from being shared without your consent

“Doxing” – the public exposure of personal data including intimate videos or images for malicious purposes – has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, says a shocking new report. 

There are no two ways about it: multiple lockdowns left many people feeling lonely, intimacy starved and lacking connection. And while many restrictions have eased, we’ve begun dating IRL again and our social calendars are looking replenished, those 18 months of isolation have had a lasting effect, not just on our mental wellbeing, but our personal safety, both on and offline.

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New research from cybersecurity service Kaspersky has revealed that 24% of Brits have shared nude or explicit material with people they have never even met, whilst a third have shared nude or explicit material with people they are dating or chatting to online.

It’s a worrying trend, considering nearly a fifth of people admit to sharing more nude or explicit material of themselves with people they are dating or chatting to since the pandemic started.

This increase has paved the way to the rising threat of doxing – the public exposure of personal data including intimate videos or images for malicious purposes, commonly known as revenge porn.

Revenge porn was criminalised in England and Wales in 2015, and in Northern Ireland in 2016, and those convicted of the offence face up to two years in prison and a fine. The maximum sentence is longer in Scotland, where anyone convicted of revenge porn could be jailed for up to five years.

However, Kaspersky’s research on dating apps revealed that 1 in 6 admit to having been doxed after sharing personal information on an app. Moreover, 11% said that they have been doxed while dating online, but didn’t realise it was happening.

Clearly, more needs to be done to make people aware of the risk of doxing, and how they can take actions to protect themselves from it. 

Doxing threats can quickly move from the online world to the physical one
Doxing threats can quickly move from the online world to the physical one

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‘Oversharing’ on dating apps, social media and across messaging services can increase your risk of being doxed, and threats can quickly move from the online world to the physical one, according to Kaspersky.

“This propensity to easily send explicit material means that images, videos and text conversations can often be saved and shared with anyone at all times, putting the material at risk should devices be hacked, whilst having detrimental consequences to the victim’s social and professional life.”

And it’s not just an invasion of privacy. The public sharing of personal data can have serious implications such as paranoia and depression for victims, and can also lead to stalking and online abuse. 

Gina Martin, the campaigner and author who made upskirting – which typically involves someone taking a picture under another person’s clothing without their knowledge – illegal also commented: “Image-based sexual abuse – or revenge porn, as it’s commonly known as – is a serious threat to women and marginalised genders online.”

Martin describes doxing as “a new way to execute an old problem – the control of women, often through consensual sexualisation of their bodies.”

And to victims, she stresses that “this is never your fault, and you should be able to exist online as you want; just add some preventative and protective steps so you can live your digital life to the fullest.”

Because the problem is not fully consenting adults taking or sending these images, but those that then share them further without consent. 

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So what steps can you take to prevent being doxed?

Kaspersky recommends that people follow this simple advice when sharing personal information:

Think before you post

It’s something we’ve all been told before, but it’s incredibly important to be mindful of who you share your data with and when – whether it’s images, personal details or even something that may seem harmless, such as your location. Always consider how the content you share online might be interpreted and used by others

Do not share anything private on a public, unsecured internet connection

Understand which messengers are safe and which have end-to-end encryption, such as WhatsApp. Always check the permission settings on the apps you use, to minimise the likelihood of your data being shared or stored by third parties – and beyond – without your knowledge.

What to do if you have been doxed

If you think you may have been doxed, the most important thing to do is keep evidence, and report it to the police and platforms where you believe your data is available. Charities like the Revenge Porn Helpline also give non-judgemental and confidential advice to those experiencing intimate image abuse, and can help with the reporting and removal of content. 

If you have been affected by threats to share intimate images or films, or have been a victim of revenge porn, you can access advice and support by calling the UK Revenge Porn Helpline on 0845 6000 459.

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Images: Getty