Our world is more connected than ever before, and that has enabled many positives – while it has also provided all too many ways for people to engage in bad behavior. Among these is the act of “doxxing,” which involves revealing and publicizing personal details about someone.

The term “dox” is an alternation of the abbreviation for “documents,” and it began as a revenge tactic employed by hackers in the 1990s. According to Wired magazine, it was used as a means to expose opponents to harassment and even legal repercussions.

However, it is increasingly employed by many on social media to embarrass those they have a beef with – and many fail to realize the consequence that can come from such actions. While it is seen by some as a form of “hacktivism,” it can ruin careers, destroy marriages, and even result in physical harm in some cases.

For those doing the doxxing, it shouldn’t be seen as a noble act, and for those who hold security clearance it could be a serious problem.

“An individual who deliberately ‘doxxes’ another person, particularly given that this is often a malicious intentional act that could in today’s world place someone in harm’s way, could potentially face an adverse clearance action under multiple adjudicative guidelines,” warned D.C.-based attorney Mark S. Zaid, whose practice is focused on national security law, freedom of speech constitutional claims, and government accountability.

“It is possible the act is against the law (Guideline J) in a specific jurisdiction, and often is at least in violation of service terms of the online system (Guideline E) where the information was posted and constitutes questionable judgment (Guideline E),” Zaid told ClearanceJobs.

Past Doxxing

Those who have previously engaged in doxxing may also face trouble in the security clearance review process.

“It puts into question whether you are someone who is trustworthy with sensitive information,” explained Anthony Kuhn, managing partner and chairperson of the military and security clearance practice at the Tully Rinckey PLLC.

“It could raise concerns about the possibility of mishandling of classified materials,” Kuhn told ClearanceJobs.

Kuhn also suggested that those with common names shouldn’t be overly concern if someone else is engaging in doxxing.

“Any investigation will go beyond just the name if a red flag were to be triggered, and the individual would be able to explain the situation,” he added. “There are also situations where someone’s identity could be stolen, and you don’t have a duty to report. It is only a problem if you actually took part in those activities.”

Being Doxxed

Then there is the issue of being doxxed. Simply being the victim wouldn’t be a problem, but it could depend on what led to it. Strong sentiments on an issue or even being in the spotlight can be enough for some to attempt to expose personal information.

“Simply being a victim of doxxing would not create a security clearance concern, unless the individual acted out in response in an inappropriate manner, and that certainly could create security concerns for that individual depending on their position within the national security community,” suggested Zaid.

Yet, a lot could still depend on what information was shared.

“If someone releases classified information that you had access to, then that could be a problem,” added Kuhn. “This would also be a trustworthy issue, as why you allowed the information to be so easily obtained.”

It could also be a problem if the information exposed showed that an individual was aligned with extremist groups or a foreign government, or even advocated for violence. Likewise compromising photos or proof of criminal activity would be a concern.

“It wouldn’t just be classified information about you that is the problem,” Kuhn continued. “Photos of certain behavior could be an issue.”

Security clearance holders who find themselves victims of doxxing should report the issue to their security officer, along with their human resources office, who may be able to provide assistance and resources.

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.