You do not have an absolute right to anonymity

Published on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

This morning I awoke to see one of the most flagrant examples of doxing ever.

Now, to be fair, this person did apologize:


This event started because the social media person at a game company made a joke that this person didn't like.  To make that person pay "in real life", they took it upon themselves to find out who the person was and make their information public.  This is an ugly trend that seems to be gaining momentum.  Someone offends you with words, you try to ruin their reputation or career in real life. How do we stop this?

Well, let's look at this case. What caused this person to suddenly apologize and protect their account? We can only speculate.  But I suspect you, the reader, have some pretty good guesses of what happened.  I suspect that people found out who this person is in real life and found out they too have a career that they don't want to have affected.  I suspect, like many people, they instinctively believed in anonymity for me but not for thee was in play.  That said, good for them for apologizing. 

As someone who has been doxed hundreds (literally as in >99) of times over the years including having my home address posted with a picture of my house posted with a note that someone "should do something" about me as well as someone using that information to call our house and threaten to murder my wife and (disgusting act) my son, I am very well in tune to what doxing is (and isn't). 

You do not have an absolute right to anonymity

What happens online should stay online.  We should respect people's privacy and we should respect their desire to be anonymous.  But that is not the same as having an absolute right.  As soon as someone's online actions start to have real world consequences for their target, all bets are off.

I've been online since the Commodore 64 BBS days. There has been a gradual, but unmistakable, trend towards believing that no matter what someone does, it is out of bounds to reveal who that person is in real life.  That's insane.  If someone is trying to get someone else fired from their real life job then they should have no illusions that the target or friends of their target might return the favor.

To give you an idea of how out of touch some people are, I've actually had people quote me saying what I essentially wrote above as evidence that I support doxing.  This is akin to saying I support violence if I believe in the right of self-defense. 

Would those critics suggest that if someone was calling for violence against someone and posting their address that it would be immoral to find out who that person is? Of course not. They've already agreed that anonymity isn't absolute, we are only discussing when it should be pierced.

If we want people to stop trying to destroy other people's real-life careers, we need to find a way to discourage that kind of behavior.  To do that, we need to reverse the trend that allows people to think that they can hide behind their Internet anonymity while they try to destroy someone's livelihood and that is to recognize that anonymity isn't a right, it's a privilege that shouldn't be abused.

Rule of thumb

If you are trying to harm an individual in the real world, such as trying to get them fired or do not be surprised if they or their friends return the favor. I suspect that is what Matt there discovered when he decided to try to damage the employee at CDPR in real life.