lifestyle

This woman was stalked. But it's OK everyone, it's just "doxxing".

This young woman dared to be attractive in public. Look at her, sunning those washboard abs in the snow, catching a sweet moment of peace, single-handedly making sky-blue cargo pants fashionable.

And she could have been just a beautiful stranger casually leaning on a barricade during the Sochi Olympics… But instead, an army of creeps on the internet tracked down every possible personal detail they could about her in a terrifying web craze called “doxxing”.

When this photo hit social sharing site Reddit (under the categories “random sexiness” and “Ohlympics”), this woman got a lot of attention, very fast – without even realising it was happening. Internet lurkers put on their detective hats and tracked down every photograph, every contact, every personal detail about this random Olympic volunteer.

Using the below close-up shot of the woman’s volunteer badge (and incidentally, her bottom) people created entire galleries of this woman including Facebook photos, party pics, and the obligatory bikini shots. They included her full name, where she lives, what she does, and who she knows.

The gallery of pervy images has been viewed thousands and thousands of times in the past few days. We’ve chosen not to republish any of those shots out of respect to the woman involved (whose name we are also choosing not to publish).

DOXXING [noun]: The act of identifying someone online using a small piece of information such as an email address or visual clue, and sourcing as much personal information about them as possible. This may include publishing their full name and identity, all social media platforms, contact details, personal photographs, and physical location.

Basically, everything this poor girl has ever put on the internet was dragged up and shared with the world because she happens to be ‘hot’. An innocent moment in the sun caught on a stranger’s camera landed this woman in a virtual spank-bank compiled by amateur online sleuths.

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And it could happen to you. To any of us. And it’s scary and stupid and creepy. Most disturbingly, it’s legal.

As Salon.com writer Tracy Clark-Flory writes: “Doxxing is the Internet’s ultimate form of slut-shaming – and, as this latest case shows, it doesn’t just happen to women who have taken a naked photo of themselves. All it requires is being a woman on the internet… It’s the belief — conscious or not — that women’s bodies, their identities, do not belong to them. It’s the double-edged sword of sexual desirability: You become more of a woman — but less of a human.”

What troubles me is the rambunctious disregard for a woman’s privacy. You can argue that privacy is an illusion and a relic now that we live our lives largely online. But there’s something deeply troubling about men making a competitive sport out of tracking down an attractive woman’s personal details. And nobody can pretend “doxxing” doesn’t have the potential to adversely affect women’s real lives.

Doxxing victims have had their email accounts hacked, their private naked photos published online, lost their jobs, lost their partners, had their property vandalised, been sexually assaulted, and in one case, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Something tells me the beautiful stranger in the cargo pants doesn’t feel safe or flattered knowing that thousands of people now know who she is, where she lives, what she does for a living, and what she looks like in a bikini.

Doxxing – discuss.