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Doxxing Series

Is Doxxing Illegal in Pennsylvania?

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  • Is Doxxing Illegal in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvanians who want to protect their online privacy might want to know: Is doxxing illegal in Pennsylvania? 

In this guide, we’ll cover whether or not it’s legal for other people to share your information on the internet without your permission as a resident of Pennsylvania. We’ll also take a look at how the state views doxxing-adjacent crimes. 

Is Doxxing Illegal in Pennsylvania?

No. It is not illegal in Pennsylvania for someone to share your information without your consent. 

Doxxing usually relies on posting information that’s already in the public sphere, and there’s generally a significant amount of data on each person that’s publicly available. 

While doxxing itself may not be illegal in Pennsylvania, there are multiple crimes related to doxxing that are. These include harassment, stalking, and making false reports to law enforcement. 

Harassment

Harassment (Title 18 Section 2709(a) of the PA Crimes Code) is something of a broad catchall for bad behaviors in Pennsylvania. 

Perpetrators are charged with harassment in Pennsylvania when they have an intention to harass, annoy, or alarm the victim and then proceed to:

  • Physically attack – or threaten to physically attack – the victim.
  • Follow the victim through public places.
  • Commit acts with no legitimate purpose.
  • Subject the victim to “lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures.” 
  • Communicate anonymously with the victim.
  • Communicate with the victim at “extremely inconvenient hours.”
  • Communicate repeatedly in some other unspecified way.

If the victim is a child and the harassment is taking place online, there are additional considerations. 

Title 18 Section 2709(a) of the PA Crimes Code - cyber harassment of a child

The penalty for harassment is either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the conditions present in each individual case. The perpetrator can be charged with up to a year in prison and a potential fine of up to $2,500.

Stalking

An activity defined as Stalking (Title 18 Section 2709.1 of the PA Crimes Code) in Pennsylvania can happen in one of two ways. 

The first involves the perpetrator repeatedly behaving with the intent to place a person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause them substantial emotional distress, such as by following them. 

The second happens when the perpetrator repeatedly communicates with the victim with the same malicious intentions. 

In other words, someone may be charged with stalking for physically menacing a person or doing it remotely (for example, through the internet).

Title 18 Section 2709.1 of the PA Crimes Code - stalking

The charge for stalking in Pennsylvania is typically a first-degree misdemeanor that can result in up to five years in prison and the potential for a fine of up to $10,000. 

However, if the perpetrator is a repeat offender or violated a restraining order to commit the crime, they can be charged with a third-degree felony and subjected to up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

False reports to law enforcement 

Making a false report (Title 18 Section 4906 of the PA Crimes Code) about someone else is considered a crime in Pennsylvania, with two distinctions regarding how penalties are applied. 

The first relates to falsely incriminating someone with the intent to implicate them in a crime. 

The second relates to knowingly reporting an incident that didn’t occur. This second version comes into play with instances of swatting, which can happen when an online troll (bad actor) finds out someone else’s contact information and sends the police to their residence or workplace under false pretenses. 

Title 18 Section 4906 of the PA Crimes Code - false reports to law enforcement

Swatting is one of the best reasons to try to keep your personal information private, as it has contributed to more than one death.

Falsely incriminating someone to law enforcement is a second-degree misdemeanor that can get perpetrators up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Making a false report is a third-degree misdemeanor and can entail imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500.

Is Doxxing Illegal at the Federal Level?

There is no federal law that explicitly protects against doxxing. However, just like in Pennsylvania, there are federal laws that could come into play when doxxing-related behaviors take place. 

That said, some states, like California, Illinois, and Arizona, have made or are in the process of making doxxing illegal. 

Regardless of where you live, legal protections only come into play after you’ve been doxxed (and harassed, stalked, or swatted). For that reason, it’s important to take your online safety into your own hands and make yourself as undoxxable as possible. 

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

Making yourself undoxxable generally involves shrinking your online footprint – scrubbing all the places where your personally identifiable information is posted and then making sure it doesn’t get back out there again. 

To do so, your first step should be to dox yourself (follow our guide using our list of doxxing tools).

Once you’ve doxxed yourself, you’ll have a better idea of where your personal information is showing up. From there, you can methodically remove it and close the holes in your data security. 

Some steps you might want to take include: 

  • Opting out of data brokers. Data brokers are companies that collect public information about people and sell it to third parties. They can be surprisingly thorough in their ability to find information about people, which makes it incredibly important to remove yourself from them. Note that data brokers renew their databases when they find more data about you. For this reason, you’ll need to repeat the opt-out process regularly. Alternatively, join a data broker removal service like DeleteMe – our privacy experts will continuously remove you from these companies on your behalf. 
  • Change your social media settings to private, including your post settings and biographical information. 
  • Stop downloading unnecessary apps that could be selling your data.
  • Use unique usernames and passwords on all of the websites you visit.
  • Remove your personally identifying data from Google.
  • Be cautious about sharing your personal information online.

The less information there is about you online, the harder you will be to doxx. Read our guide on how to prevent doxxing to learn more. 

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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