The ongoing digitization of our world has not only revolutionized our everyday lives and working environments, but also the way we interact and transact with each other. With every step we take toward an increasingly connected and digitized society, traditional boundaries are being transcended and new opportunities created. But this development also brings its challenges. The growth of online interactions and transactions has created a whole new landscape of legal and ethical issues and problems to navigate.
In this new digital age, one of the phenomena causing discussion and concern is doxing. Doxing – a term that emerged from the “docs” (documents) of Internet culture – represents a practice that has the potential to deeply invade the privacy of individuals and undermine trust in the security and confidentiality of online platforms and services. The first question to be answered is what exactly is meant by doxing and how this phenomenon is judged in legal terms.
Beyond these initial questions, however, other complexities and nuances emerge when we consider doxing in the context of rapidly evolving technologies like blockchain. Blockchain technology, with its inherent transparency and immutability, raises its own unique issues and potential conflicts. How do we evaluate doxing in light of this novel technology? How does doxing affect the anonymity that is so highly valued in many blockchain networks? And how do we navigate the potential conflicts that arise from the interaction between doxing, blockchain, and legal and ethical considerations?
The legal assessment of doxing
The legal assessment of doxing is a complex undertaking that depends on many variable factors. This variability extends not only to the specific context in which doxing occurs, but also to the legislation and jurisprudence of the particular country in which the case is being considered. A general consensus is that in many countries around the world, including Germany, doxing is not explicitly included as a separate crime in the criminal code. However, the absence of an explicit legal provision does not mean that doxing remains in a legal gray area or even without legal consequences.
In Germany, for example, doxing is often interpreted as a violation of personal rights. The general right to privacy is a fundamental right that belongs to every individual and includes the right to decide for oneself on the disclosure and use of personal information. It protects individual freedom and privacy against interference from other individuals or organizations. Accordingly, the unauthorized collection and publication of personal data on the Internet, as is the case with doxing, could be considered a violation of this fundamental right.
In addition, doxing can be considered a violation of data protection law. In this context, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is of particular importance. The GDPR provides comprehensive protection of personal data for all residents of the European Union and sets strict rules for the collection, processing and publication of this data. If these rules are violated, significant fines may be imposed.
However, there are other legal aspects that need to be considered. Depending on the context and the specific information posted, doxing can also be considered libel, slander, or defamation. In some cases, especially when doxing is used to intimidate or threaten someone, it could even be classified as coercion or threats.
Despite the serious legal consequences doxing can entail, prosecuting such cases often proves difficult. This is due to the global reach of the Internet, the anonymity that comes with it, and the many legal challenges that arise from different laws in different countries. This underscores the need to seek effective solutions to doxing at both the national and international levels.
Doxing and the blockchain technology
One particularly interesting and controversial area where doxing occurs is in blockchain technology. In the context of blockchain, doxing is often discussed in the context of revealing the identities of wallet holders. Although blockchain technology is designed for transparency and verifiability, a potential conflict arises here between preventing doxing and the basic principles of blockchain.
The transparency of the blockchain makes it possible to track and analyze transactions and wallets. Should service providers managing blockchain content disclose the identity of wallet holders, this could be considered a form of doxing. This raises a number of ethical and legal issues that have not yet been conclusively resolved.
Many proponents of blockchain technology argue that transparency and anonymity can coexist. This means that transactions can be public and verifiable without revealing the identity of the users. Nevertheless, the extent to which disclosing information about blockchain users should be considered doxing and how to balance the need for transparency with privacy protection remains a contentious debate.
Doxing, blockchain and regulatory challenges.
The increasing importance of regulatory frameworks and rules, such as anti-money laundering (AML) rules, adds another layer of complexity to doxing and blockchain. In many cases, these rules require a certain level of transparency and traceability of transactions to prevent money laundering and other criminal activities.
However, this is at odds with the desire of many users and proponents of blockchain technology for anonymity and privacy. Thus, a tension arises between the need for regulation and control on the one hand and the desire for anonymity and data protection on the other.
This tension raises a number of questions and challenges. For example, how can sufficient transparency be ensured to meet regulatory requirements without violating user privacy? How can blockchain service providers help prevent doxing without undermining the benefits of blockchain technology? And how can regulators and legislators develop effective and appropriate regulations that address both the requirements of AML rules and the need for privacy and anonymity?
Doxing is a complex and controversial phenomenon that can have far-reaching effects on individuals’ privacy and trust in online services. The legal assessment of doxing is complex and requires careful consideration of the particular context and specific circumstances.
The use of new technologies such as blockchain raises additional questions and challenges. The need to strike a balance between transparency and privacy is central to this. This requires both ongoing discussion and reflection, as well as the development of clear guidelines and best practices.
The increasing importance of regulatory frameworks and rules, such as the AML rules, presents us with further challenges. It will be exciting to see how these discussions develop and what solutions are found to reconcile the diverse requirements and interests.
In any case, it is important that we are aware of the risks and challenges that doxing and similar practices pose. It is our collective responsibility to take action against such practices and to stand up for the privacy and security of all Internet users.