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What is doxing? Understand practice that exposes people, but it is not a crime in Brazil


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The journalist and former candidate for councilor for the PT William de Lucca denounced on Twitter, on the 10th, that he had personal data leaked on Telegram by Bolsonaristas and that he received death threats. According to Lucca, the CPF and the place of residence were disclosed. The address, luckily, was old, he reported.

The practice that the communicator was the target of is called doxing: it consists of publishing, generally with harmful intentions, private information or information that allows the identification of someone.

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Twitter prohibited, in December, publishing personal data of third parties without authorization from the owners of the information. The social network’s privacy policies were updated after Elon Musk complained that journalists were disclosing the real-time location of his jet.

Based on the guideline announced on the social network itself by its owner, Twitter suspended for one day the account of professionals accused by Musk of doxing. In the complaints, the billionaire cited a Californian law that prohibits the disclosure of sensitive information to cause harm to someone.

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Musk claimed that the data that allowed him to be located made someone as notoriously wealthy as himself vulnerable to property crimes and violence, which would fall under the California state rule.

“As the owner of the platform, he can anticipate guardianship and act to ensure compliance with the law”, says professor Eduardo Tomasevicius, from the USP Faculty of Law. According to the jurist, the posts by press professionals were not reporting work and functioned as paparazzi photos.

In Brazil, however, doxing is not categorized by law. Here, the victims can only ask, in court, for compensation and removal of the content, if they consider that the publication of the data may have caused damage to their honor.

The case of the influencer linked to the PT, William de Lucca, serves as an example of the risks of doxing: the information disclosed is used in cyber attack campaigns, cases of persecution on the internet (a crime known as cyberstalking) and even death threats.

“We must exterminate William de Lucca, the pedophile journalist and confessed pederast”, wrote, on January 10, an account with the nickname “O Martial” in the Telegram group Aurora de Aço, linked to the extreme right group Nova Resistência . The communicator’s data was also exposed in the group Christians in Brazil. Martial later complained about being sanctioned on Telegram.

There are restrictions on doxing on social media in general. Even Gettr, a kind of far-right Twitter, whose motto is the unrestricted defense of freedom of expression, removes posts with undue exposure of data.

Lucca is a well-known LGBT activist — the trigger for the attacks had been a joke with the arrest of Bolsonaristas involved in the invasion of the headquarters of the three Powers.

Condepe (State Council for the Defense of Human Rights) officiated, on the 11th, the attorney general of Justice of the State of São Paulo, Mário Luiz Sarrubbo, about these conversations on Telegram. The council points out, in the document, the crimes of threat and slander — the disclosure of the address is an aggravating factor in the risk to the life of the communicator.

The digital law coordinator at Escola Paulista de Magistratura and judge Fernando Antonio Tasso points out that not every disclosure of data that allows someone to be identified is doxing. Newspapers, for example, can publish this information, as long as there is public interest.

“It is very difficult for a Bolsonarist who participated in public acts [de 8 de janeiro] complain in the courts about the exposure of their image “, says Tasso. In these cases, freedom of expression prevails over the right to protection of personal data, a constitutional guarantee since the enactment of constitutional amendment 115 of 2022.

The LGPD (General Data Protection Law) does not classify geolocation information as sensitive, as it is not a source of discrimination — records about sexual preference, ethnic or racial origin, religious conviction and political opinion fall into this category. The law, in force since 2020, made room for the use of personal data in legal proceedings.

With regard to criminal actions, this possibility is pacified. In the Labor Court, the legality and constitutionality of the practice depends on the decision of the TST (Superior Labor Court). For now, each case needs to be analyzed individually, says the judge of the TRT-2 (Regional Labor Court of the 2nd Region), from São Paulo, Thomaz Werneck.

Companies and employees already request that geolocation data stored by Google or obtained through telephone antennas be used to prove or refute allegations of overtime worked, according to USP Law School professor Antônio Rodrigues Freitas Júnior.

To ensure data protection, actions that require this type of proof are kept secret from the courts. Legal experts advise opening the necessary minimum of information. “It’s not for gossip”, says Freitas Júnior.

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