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Doxxing Series

Doxxing Jail Time: What You Need to Know

Once you know about the dangers that can come from being doxxed, you might wonder: Can doxxing someone lead to jail time? 

While doxxing isn’t illegal everywhere, it does lead to jail time in some places, and it can certainly lead to other illegal activities. Read on as we review when (and where) doxxing is illegal, along with what other criminal behaviors are related to doxxing. 

Is Doxxing Illegal?

Doxxing, or the act of publishing someone else’s personal data online without their permission, is not illegal at the federal level in the United States. 

However, a growing number of states, including California and Illinois, have made doxxing illegal, meaning perpetrators could expect jail time there.

In addition, some states have situation-specific laws that make doxxing illegal. In Colorado, for example, doxxing an educator or healthcare worker is a crime, while in Oklahoma, doxxing a law enforcement officer is treated as a criminal act. 

Even if doxxing itself is not illegal where you live, there are other activities related to doxxing that could fit the bill for criminality, including harassment and stalking. If someone is doxxing you, chances are, they may also be committing associated crimes. 

Doxxing Jail Time

In states where doxxing is not illegal, jail time is generally not a factor (outside of the perpetrator committing other related crimes). 

In states that have criminalized doxxing, the penalty is usually a misdemeanor, meaning the jail time involved will usually vary between six months and a year. In most states where doxxing is illegal, perpetrators could also (or, in some cases, instead) be punished with a fine (typically between $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the state you live in). 

Take Texas, where doxxing is defined as sharing someone’s home address or phone number on a website that’s publicly accessible with the intent of causing harm. Doxxing someone in Texas can result in up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000. If the victim sustains bodily injury as a result of the doxxing, then the penalty increases to up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

In Arizona, the penalty for distributing someone’s personal information with the intent to harass or cause them harm is up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Arizona doxxing law

California considers doxxing illegal if it is done to harass someone or if it leads to unwanted physical contact or injury. In those instances, the penalty is up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

On the other hand, Minnesota only considers doxxing to be illegal when the victim is a law enforcement officer or their family members and when it presents a serious risk to the officer or their family. The penalty for doxxing someone fitting this criterion in Minnesota is up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

Even if the state you live in hasn’t made doxxing illegal, it likely has laws that criminalize behaviors related to doxxing. 

For example, one of the most commonly associated crimes is cyberstalking or repeatedly messaging and/or contacting someone online. It’s illegal in many states and can result in jail time (up to 12 months in Florida or 60 days in North Carolina).

Other doxxing-related activities that are typically punishable at the state level are harassment, stalking, and swatting (when someone calls law enforcement to your home under false pretenses to prompt an emergency response).

Some of these crimes can be illegal at the federal level as well. One New York man, for example, was given a two-year sentence on three federal charges related to doxxing. 

How Does Doxxing Happen? 

In most cases, doxxing happens when someone starts tracking your online movements across social media platforms, websites, and forums. 

As they do so, they collect information about you, including your full name, home address, phone number, and other personal data or contact details. They can then use that information to contact you, blackmail you, or harass you. 

Data brokers are a common source of information for doxxers. Data brokers are companies that collect and compile personal data into individual profiles and then sell these profiles to anyone willing to pay a small fee (in some cases, these profiles are free). 

Data broker profile

Finding your profile is easy. All someone needs to do is go to a data broker website and type in your name/username, email address/home address/phone number. 

Fortunately, you can opt out of data brokers, but be aware that you will need to repeat the process whenever the data broker uncovers new information about you (as your profile will be reactivated). 

Alternatively, you can subscribe to a data broker removal service like DeleteMe. Our privacy experts will continuously opt you out of data broker databases on your behalf so you can spend your time elsewhere. 

Becoming Undoxxable

Ultimately, if your goal is not to be doxxed, then you’ll want to make yourself as undoxxable as possible. 

Begin by doxxing yourself (learn how in our guide to self-doxxing) using these tried and true doxxing tools

Once you’ve finished doxxing yourself, you’ll know exactly where your data vulnerabilities are, and you can start putting together a plan for removing or hiding your data in those places.

For most people, you’ll need to take one or more of the following steps:

  • Changing the settings on your social media posts to make them private or visible to friends only.
  • Hiding your social media biography details from the public.
  • Opting out of data brokers (repeatedly) or hiring a service such as DeleteMe to handle the opt-out process for you.
  • Using unique usernames for all of accounts, along with unique passwords (consider a password manager and/or two-factor authentication for optimal security).
  • Setting up Google Alerts for your name to be notified when your data shows up online.

To find out more, read our in-depth guide on how to prevent doxxing.

Laura Martisiute is DeleteMe’s content marketing specialist. Her job is to help DeleteMe communicate vital privacy information to the people that need it. Since joining DeleteMe in 2020, Laura h…

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