Home Career When Officers Become the Target: How to Protect Yourself from Doxing

When Officers Become the Target: How to Protect Yourself from Doxing

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By Leischen Stelter, managing editor of In Public Safety

CBS News reported that after the fatal shooting of a man by a LAPD police officer, someone posted the officer’s private information online, including his home address, phone number, and other personal details including his child’s school location.

Police and social media lawsThis practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual is referred to as doxing (or doxxing) and is typically done with malicious intent. The information published can be anything from home addresses to vehicle identification to social media accounts. Once individuals have been exposed through doxing, they may be targeted for online harassment. Doxing is becoming enough of a concern that the FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) have issued warnings to law enforcement and public officials.

Protecting Yourself and Your Family
American Military University (AMU) recently hosted a webinar on this topic as part of its Law Enforcement Webinar Series. Presenter James Deater, who spent more than 23 years as a Maryland State Trooper specializing in wiretaps and other forms of electronic investigation techniques, provided advice for how officers can protect themselves.

“Any officer could end up in a situation where you do everything right in accordance with agency policy, but the incident is captured on video and it looks wrong to the public. It happens all the time and as soon as your name is released to the public, you become a target,” said Deater. “You may not be able to stop it, but you can at least make it difficult for people to find your private information.”

Here are some recommendations Deater made about how to protect your personal information:

  • Be aware of security and privacy settings on your accounts. Be selective about who you share information with and limit how often you post about your location (especially if it’s your home).
  • Routinely update computers, devices, and software with the latest security fixes.
  • Use anti-virus software.
  • Pay close attention to links and attachments in email messages. Do not open anything that looks even remotely suspicious. If it’s legitimate, the person can always send it again.
  • Add protection to your email, social media, and online bank accounts using two-factor authentication techniques.
  • Choose unique, strong passwords for each of your accounts and change your passwords regularly.
  • Remember that anything you post on social media might be used against you. Once it’s online, you cannot take it back.

Request Information Be Removed
During the webinar, Deater discussed ways that officers can proactively remove personal information from the dozens of websites that sell this information. He included specific details about what forms to submit, what identification documents to send, and how long it will take for information to be removed. However, some of this information is law enforcement-sensitive and cannot be included in this piece. If you are a police officer, you can request to view the recorded webinar by sending an email (using your agency email address) to James Deater (JDeater@apus.edu).

Due to the level of interest, AMU will soon be hosting additional webinars on doxing. To be notified when this and other new webinars are announced, please complete this form.

Here are a few sites to consider removing your information from:

It can take a considerable amount of time and effort to properly submit the forms, especially if officers are also removing their spouses and children from such databases. However, the time it takes to remove this information is worth it to protect—or at least deter—a malicious attack on an officer and his or her family.

Leischen Stelter headshot_v4About the Author: Leischen Stelter is the editor of American Military University’s premier blog, In Public Safety. She writes about issues and trends relevant to professionals in law enforcement, corrections, fire services, emergency management, and national security. You can follow AMU on Twitter @AMUPoliceEd or Facebook.

 

Comments

Comment(3)

  1. To mask your information, you need to throw up smoke screens and obscure your information from being collected by data mining firms and deep web crawlers. They collect, compile, and synthesize your information from public information disclosures such as your DL/ID information, voter registration, property tax and appraisal records, vehicle registration records, birth records, marriage records, criminal and civil court records and combine it with data mining information compiled from third party disclosure agreements from credit reporting agencies, magazine subscriptions, warranty cards, surveys, spam lists, social networking sites, and web browser cookies, who then sell your information wholesale through information brokers. There are a few simple things a peace officer can do to confuse the collection and synthesis of their private information and thus make it harder to search, purchase, and “dox” their information on pastebin.

    A Texas Peace Officers can use the county courthouse of their residing county as an alternate address on their DL and ID. You will need to show up to the DPS office in person, fill out a change of address form, show your peace officer license, agency ID, and pay the $11 fee. You can remove your voter registration from all public disclosure by filling out Texas Form BW9-3 Request for Peace Officer Confidentiality. You can also change the address on your vehicle registration to a PO box or private mailbox service for your vehicle registration address. If you are purchasing a vehicle, you may be able to use your initials or combination of initials and last name as the owner instead of full name on the car title. If you own a car and have the car title in your possession, you may also request to reissue the title under your initials or combination. If not, you will will need to ask your lien holder for permission to reissue the title for a name change.

    If you do not already have a PO Box or private mailbox service -GET ONE- and -USE IT-. You should not have any mail going to your residential address. Do not give your residential address out to any company or billing agency or use your residential address for online shopping, catalogs, magazines, or shipping. Do not fill out any surveys and do not enter yourself into drawings, sweepstakes, or disclose any of your information for freebies. You need to be very paranoid about postcards, catalogs, and mail lists, or anyone asking about your mailing address, especially marketing companies asking to photo capture your DL/ID. It may seem harmless but it opens the door to public disclosure of your privacy.

    The final task is to opt-out of data mining brokers. The most important is to opt out of credit reporting agencies from third party disclosure and telemarketing databases. This can be done online through optoutprescreen.com and donotcall.gov. These two will make it harder for for data brokers to collect information on you. You will then have to go each and every data broker that offers opt out option. There are approximately 270+ data brokers. Some offer this option through an online form while most require you to send a letter requesting opt-out, and a copy of your DL/ID (black out the DL#, picture, and DOB), others offer partial opt-out, opt-out for law enforcement only, while some do not offer any opt-out. It is nearly impossible to remove your information entirely but you can definitely make it harder for someone to look you up and find correct information.

    Data Mining opt-out list

    https://www.privacyrights.org/online-information-brokers-list

    https://www.worldprivacyforum.org/2013/12/data-brokers-opt-out/

    http://www.stopdatamining.me/opt-out-list/

    BW9-3 Request for Peace Officer Confidentiality
    http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/bw9-3.pdf

  2. Kevin,

    Outstanding added information, thank you for sharing…………do you mind if some of this information is used in the next webinar on doxing?

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