Mark Fitzgibbons, a member of the First Tuesday Lunch Group, has an article in yesterday’s Daily Caller about how governments engage, probably unintentionally, in “doxxing.” For those not entirely current on slang, “dox” means
verb (used with or without object), doxed or doxxed, doxing or doxxing. 1. Slang. to publish the private personal information of (another person) or reveal the identity of (an online poster) without the consent of that individual: The professor was doxed by a bitter student who failed her class. Several players doxed the programmer because the final version of the game disappointed them.
Disclosure is often cited as an unalloyed good, as in Justice Louis Brandeis’ famous formulation: “”Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” But remember that Brandeis also said: “I abhor averages. I like the individual case. A man may have six meals one day and none the next, making an average of three meals per day, but that is not a good way to live.”
Mark’s piece shows how government disclosures lead inevitably to doxxing; that is, after all, the point of government-mandated disclosure — to force people to reveal publicly what they would generally prefer to keep private. We live in a far different world today from when many of these disclosure requirements were originally hatched. Today, what was once a shield against miscreants has become a sword used by them.
Like any powerful tool, disclosure can be a force for good. Its use should not be mindless. And those who are subject to it must take special precautions to defend themselves.