How Not To Be Doxxed

clausewitzportraitClausewitz said that battles are won by whichever side shows up with more bodies. Memetic warfare is a little more complicated than that, but your first duty to your tribe is to keep yourself safe, so that you don’t get knocked out of the game.

1. If you want to stay anonymous online, it helps to start by trying to doxx someone else. If you had a crush in the age before Facebook you’ve had experience with this; but with the rise of social media we typically have all the information we could want about people we actually know at our fingertips, so teenagers will have to practice their online espionage against strangers.  Both where you succeed, and where you fail, you’ll learn a lot about what kind of information makes it easy to find more information about a person, and what kind leads to dead ends.

2. The basic principle behind doxxing is the principle of independent assortment.  In a nation of 320M, even a fairly strange fact about someone – say, a trait that only describes one person in 200 — still identifies 1.6M Americans.  But a second strange trait will identify a different group of 1.6M Americans, with only a tiny overlap of 8,000 people who belong to each of the two groups. With a third equally striking fact you’re down to 40 people.  What this means is that a tiny amount of information which seems useless is generally all you need to find a needle in a haystack. People are caught because they are careless with information that seems harmless, but is only harmless when taken in isolation from other, equally “harmless” facts about a person.

3. From the principle of independent assortment you can probably work out your own set of privacy guidelines, but here are my suggestions: a/Reveal as little about yourself as possible. Part of this is not chattering mindlessly, which is a good habit in general. People will learn to respect your word if it is used sparingly. b/Use creative misdirection.  If you need to mention that you are coaching tee-ball, say you’re coaching baseball… or, if it really doesn’t matter and you’re not interacting with that person again, say you’re coaching soccer. c/Even if you share some fact about yourself, don’t share it with everyone. If you’ve told one person you have a mole on your forehead, you may think “the cat is out of the bag”; but it isn’t. While one person you trust may turn on you and try to doxx you, it’s less likely that everyone you trust will simultaneously turn on you and try to doxx you. Try to make sure that no one person or clique of people has the critical amount of info. d/Connected: avoid combining interests. If you don’t talk about RWDS on Facebook, you shouldn’t be following your friends and family with a troll account. And I hope it goes without saying: you absolutely should not be looking for love from fashy follows. Don’t use a persistent pseudonym across multiple online forums.  Both the information you post on those forums and the interest/hobby your activity in each forum reveals can be useful for triangulating who you are.

4. Avoid leaking personally identifying information like the plague.  In particular: a/Launder images so that you are sure you aren’t storing images with identifying metadata in the same folders as images you found on the internet. b/Beware of screenshots. They are filled with “background data” that strikes you as normal/meaningless because it’s there all the time, even though it is unique for every user.  Screenshots can reveal where you are, what tabs you are browsing, or what you have on your desktop.  In a recent exchange, someone sent me a page which had a button in the middle which was customized for the university whose network he was using; easy mistake to make.  If you do feel the need to make and use screenshots, trim them very tightly so they only include exactly what you need to show. c/Avoid any sort of image that is unique in that it shows something about you or your surroundings that anyone who was there could immediately identify. That means no pictures of your room, no pictures of the park outside your house, no pictures of whether you work.  This kind of information is especially damaging because facts about you, no matter how incriminating, always leave room for doubt because they rely on the research skills of the person trying to doxx you. But unique events/locations/voices/etc. leave no doubt, once the doxxing has reached your acquaintances. d/Remember that your IP address, your cookies, etc. are also doxxable. This is especially important if you use forums and imageboards; big companies have this kind of information but would never bother to target you, individually, whereas administrators and moderators on smaller sites do it all the time.  If some online identity can be linked to your activity on these sites, all sorts of information about you can be connected via your IP address and other identifiers.  So browse safe, and don’t connect one online identity to your activities on other sites.

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