Proposed legislation would require the Department of Homeland Security to “evaluate risks posed to national security and civilian privacy” by the online release of individuals’ personal information.
Bipartisan House legislation introduced last week would require the Department of Homeland Security to “develop and disseminate a threat assessment regarding the use of cyber harassment, including doxing, by terrorists and foreign malicious actors.”
Introduced by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Don Bacon, R-Neb.—along with 26 co-sponsors—on May 18, the Doxing Threat Assessment Act would “evaluate risks posed to national security and civilian privacy” by targeted online harassment, including the digital release of individuals’ personal contact information and addresses.
“This legislation would direct the development and dissemination of a threat assessment of cyber harassment tactics, to both inform future policymaking and law enforcement, as well as prevent targeted attacks on community institutions and persecuted groups,” the lawmakers said in a press release.
An April 2022 report released by home security company Safehome.org found that approximately 21% of Americans have experienced some form of doxing, with more than half of these instances resulting from online interactions with strangers.
Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that “arming our national security officials and law enforcement with knowledge of how these groups operate and for identifying vulnerabilities and preventing attacks is a first step to protect our communities from harm.”
The bill’s backers highlighted how malicious actors have used social media platforms in recent years to hasten the spread of sensitive personal data from individuals and organizations, including members of Congress, necessitating the need for a broader assessment of these types of activities and their associated risks.
“Doxing has been used by extremist groups to target public officials, religious groups and private citizens alike, spreading their private information across the Internet,” Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y.—one of the bill’s co-sponsors—said in a tweet, adding that the legislation would help “curb this rising threat.”
The lawmakers’ announcement of the bill cited, in part, concerns about the Boston Mapping Project—“an antisemitic attempt to publicize the locations of Jewish community organizations in the Boston area”—as well as online “kill lists” disseminated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“This is a new frontier, and we need more information on the threat doxing poses, as we have seen anti-Semitic groups weaponize the data of victims,” Bacon said in a statement. “Jewish citizens and businesses have been targeted by this doxing. With more information, our law enforcement will be able to develop a more robust approach to the protections of Americans and their data.”