Can Someone Post Your Personal Information Online?

Graffiti by Alberto Garcia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)
Graffiti by Alberto Garcia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This is a question I’ve been getting more frequently lately – people asking about the legalities of posting another person’s personal information on the Internet, sometimes referred to as doxing. And of course as any regular reader would know, the answer to every legal question is, “It depends.”

If you have shared your information with others in a public place whether it’s through a directory like the white pages or informally through social media, there may be nothing you can do to stop somebody from sharing information that you have previously freely shared with the public. Please note, regardless of your privacy settings, there is no expectation of privacy in anything you post on social media. It may be very easy for someone to piece together your name, your hobbies, where you work, what city you live in, and information about your family from posts and pictures you posted online. Look how easy it was for Jack Vale to surprise and frighten people based on what they posted on Instagram.

Conversely, there may be situations where somebody releases your private personal information, such as your unlisted phone number, your social security number, or other information that any reasonable person would know you would want to remain confidential. You are state may have a law against the public release of private information that you could use to get compensation from the person who shared your information. Depending on the circumstances and your local laws, sharing your personal information may be a type of harassment. If you think you’ve been the victim of cyberharassment, please contact your local law enforcement agency for assistance.

My advice is, “Think before you post.” Never put anything on the internet that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper. This rule applies even if you think you’re posting anonymously or with an alter ego because there is always a risk that you could be unmasked. In addition to being careful about what you post online, be careful about what information you share with others both verbally and in writing. Also be careful about who you let use your computer or phone if you have information on it that you don’t want to get out, or else you might find yourself in a similar situation as a kind teacher who let students use her cell phone. They repaid her kindness by sharing the intimate photos they found on it.

If you are interested in the dos and don’ts regarding privacy and the internet, please check out my book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to Get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, or send me an email.

8 responses to “Can Someone Post Your Personal Information Online?”

  1. Someone working in our towns water department posted a picture on facebook of her desk at work, it had someones account information pulled up on the computer and two slips of paper showing two others information on the desk, one of which was mine. Is there anything I can do? Is this legal for her to do? I am not friends with the woman on there, but had friends and family members send me “screen shots” of it when they saw what she had done. I live in Oklahoma if that helps

    • I don’t know anything about Oklahoma state laws, but I suspect there are at least obligations to keep customer information confidential. If I were in that situation, I’d at least start with a call to the head of the water department. If you want to know about your legal remedies in this situation, you’ll have to consult a local lawyer.

  2. My personal information has been posted on line. Don’t know who or why. Quanki Support is the company who posted. They charge $750.00 to remove. What recourse do I have, and are there any governmental agencies who regulate these companies?

    Thank you for any info you can give me.

    • This reminds me of the person who ran a revenge porn site and charged people to remove their nude images. He went to jail for extortion. I recommend contacting a lawyer, law enforcement, or the Attorney General’s Office (if you live in the U.S. or it’s a U.S.-based website) for assistance.

  3. a mail site that I used to use does not have a way to directly contact customer support. Their website is absolutely awful and I honestly could not tell what I was doing. I was desperately trying to get into contact with them about a serious issue, and I was given the opportunity to send a message. I did not realize I was posting on a public forum. So I posted sensitive personal information on this complete trash heap of a site, thinking that it was a private message to customer support. Now I need them to remove the comment, but there is no way for me to delete it, and again I am faced with the issue of having no way to contact customer support. I know that I posted it myself, but I didn’t know it was public and all I want to do is delete my own comment. I don’t know what to do and I am kind of panicking. Is there anything I can do?

    • Depending on the circumstances and where this occurred, you may not be able to “unring” this bell. It sounds like you need a new mail service.

  4. A website that sells your personal information has an extensive file on me, including “crimes” I was allegedly convicted of. The problem is, I never lived in those states and have NO criminal record! They also have several states they say I lived, that I have a realtors license, etc, ALL false. I read up on Spokeo vs Robins and know you absolutely CAN sue “personal information websites”, the problem is finding a lawyer to do the job. I saw several online lawyers who hold themselves out as experts who say you can’t sue “personal information websites” and they’re dead wrong; such a case went all the way to the Supreme Court. So, where can I find a lawyer? I suspect the erroneous reports of criminal convictions has likely kept me from several jobs I applied for. I also have a restraining order against an ex I CANNOT allow to find me. Please advise.

    • I recommend you find a lawyer licensed in your state to assist you. The local state bar association may be able to provide assistance in locating a lawyer who practices in this area of law.

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