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Doxxing Series

Is Doxxing Illegal In California?

  • Doxxing
  • Is Doxxing Illegal In California?

California residents who see their personal information like name or home address published online without their consent might wonder: Is doxxing illegal in California?

This guide answers this question while also explaining the steps you can take to protect yourself from getting doxxed in California and elsewhere. 

Is Doxxing Illegal in California?

Doxxing is illegal in California if it places the victim in reasonable fear for their safety and is done with the goal of harassment, unwanted physical contact, or injury, as per section 653.2 of the California Penal Code. 

Section 653.2 of the California Penal Code. 

Doxxing is the act of publishing identifying or private information about a person without that person’s consent. Examples of personally identifying information might include a person’s contact information like their phone number or residential address, job information, family member details, social security number, etc. Doxxing usually has malicious intent behind it. 

Under California law, it doesn’t matter how doxxing information is distributed. For example, through email or as a hyperlink, and through what means, i.e., an electronic communication device can be a cell phone, computer, web page, or even fax machine or video recorder, etc. 

Violating section 653.2 of the California Penal Code is a misdemeanor that can be punished by a maximum of one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. 

California also penalizes other criminal activities that can come from doxxing, including stalking and making criminal threats. 

Stalking

Publishing someone’s home address or other personal details (like where they work) can often lead to stalking.

Under California law and the Penal Code 646.9, stalking (including cyberstalking) involves repeatedly following or harassing someone (online harassment/cyber harassment is included) to the point where they feel afraid for their safety or the safety of their family. 

Section 646.9 of California Penal Code

Violating Penal Code 646.9 can lead to jail time of up to one year, a $1,000 fine, or both. However, this is only if the perpetrator faces a misdemeanor charge. Depending on the severity of the crime, the violation may be charged as a felony. 

Making criminal threats

It’s not unusual for someone who is doxxed to start receiving threats. 

In California, this crime is known as making criminal threats. It is defined in Penal Code 422 as when a person threatens to commit a crime that can cause death or significant bodily injury to another person or that person’s immediate family. This still qualifies as a crime even if no physical act occurs. 

Section 422 of California Penal Code

The threat can be made verbally or through electronic communication, like email or text messages. 

Criminal threats can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony. For misdemeanors, the maximum penalty is one year in county jail. For felonies, the sentence can be up to three years in state prison. This punishment can include a fine of up to $10,000 and probation.

Making annoying phone calls

Once a doxxer has your phone number, they or anyone else can make annoying or threatening phone calls. 

In California, making phone calls or electronic communications with the intent to annoy is subject to Penal Code 653m. This includes calls or communications that are obscene, threatening, or repeatedly harassing. Calls made in good faith or for legitimate purposes are excluded. 

Section 653m of California Penal Code

Violating this law is punishable with a sentence of up to six months in a county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It’s a misdemeanor crime, and judges can impose other conditions of probation beyond the expected punishment. 

An important aspect of California’s law is that not every communication deemed annoying qualifies as criminal. The communication must also:

  • Contain obscene language or threats.
  • Be part of an excessive series of repetitive calls.

Is Doxxing Illegal at the Federal Level?

In the US, doxing is not currently illegal at the federal level. 

Each state is responsible for setting its own laws, regulations, and punishments related to doxxing. 

However, some federal laws could punish doxxers. For example, 18 U.S.Code §119 is a federal statute under which it’s illegal to share restricted personal information about covered persons (e.g., grand or petit jurors, witnesses in a federal criminal investigation, etc.). 

Some states, like California, Illinois, and Arizona, have made doxxing illegal.

How to Protect Yourself Against Doxxing In California (And Elsewhere)

To protect yourself against doxxing, you need to reduce the amount of personal data that exists about you online. 

Few people realize how much of their personal information lives on the internet. To figure out how easy it would be for someone to find this information, try doxxing yourself. You can follow our guide on how to do this. We also have a list of doxxing tools you can use. 

Once you know what data exists about you on the internet, you can take steps to delete or hide it. 

This might involve:

  • Opting out of data brokers who collect our data from all kinds of sources and then collate it into comprehensive profiles, which are sold to more or less anyone. You can also subscribe to a data broker removal service like DeleteMe, which will opt you out of brokers on your behalf. 
  • Making your social media accounts private.
  • Adjusting privacy settings on social media platforms.
  • Using unique usernames across all your online accounts. 
  • Reducing the number of apps you download and use (these can sell your information to data brokers).
  • Removing personal and harmful information from Google Search. 
  • Being mindful of what you say online (remember, even if you delete a post or a comment, someone might have already taken a screenshot of it).

To learn more, read our 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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