CC.4: Doxxing, online harassment, and intimate partner surveillance

  • Have you encountered these threat models before? (only share what you’re comfortable with)
  • Have you tried removing your own information from data brokers?
  • What comes up when you search for yourself?
  • How could you offer programming or resources for these threat models?
  • What challenges do you see in meeting the needs of these threat models?

As I discussed with my small group yesterday, one of my first encounters with this threat model was with an author who was hoping to hold a lecture about the history of Indiana Avenue, a historically Black neighborhood in Indianapolis. This author specifically asked me what security we had in place to address possible anti-CRT threats. At the time, we didn’t really have an answer for that author (in part because we host regular events out of our Center for Black Literature and Culture without issue). That event fell through for other reasons, but I felt like the library was unprepared for those kinds of threats and that was a bit unsettling.

I am lucky in that both my first name and last name are very common. In fact, I recall in elementary school there was another Rachel Wood with the same exact birthday as me (month, day, year). I’ve also moved around a lot (like every two years) and live in large cities, so the few times I have looked myself up in data brokers, I’m either virtually anonymous amongst a sea of other Rachels or my information is outdated. However, my middle name is Nevada and I use that a lot, especially on professional profiles (like LinkedIn) and once you have that piece of information it is really, really easy to find a lot of other stuff out about me. I feel like I’m constantly trying to find the balance between making sure my work is attributed to me (including creative writing, book reviews, my LinkedIn profile, and other literature) and exposing information to a level that is unsafe for me. Recently, I’ve begun the process of switching profiles that I’d prefer to remain private to other usernames.

Like Chi said in class, I think that making sure language is non-jargony and providing ample time for actually applying principles (by removing information or changing passwords) are all essential steps. I think in an ideal world, I’d love to adopt the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition’s “DiscoTech” model, where there are different booths for each aspect of privacy, with flyers and a place to sit and get things done all combined. I like that this model allows patrons to engage as much or as little as they’d like.

Of course, one of the major challenges is that the folks who are most at risk for doxxing or stalkerware aren’t necessarily going to feel comfortable going up to a librarian and simply saying help me. That requires a lot of trust and vulnerability, and many libraries have fractured relationships with marginalized folks because of their investment in white supremacy. Another major challenge is that a task that is already overwhelming can feel even more overwhelming for patrons who are not comfortable with computers or technology. If a patron is worried about having their information tied up in data brokers but also isn’t comfortable using a mouse, removing that information feels all the more daunting.

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I think a couple of helpful principles are emerging for offering programs on these threat models, which have been built upon with each class’ readings, lectures, and discussions. Being realistic without being nihilistic, using accessible language and/or taking the time to define terms and work from collective agreements, and ensuring there’s time in a program for actually enacting some privacy changes. I think the feelings of overwhelm really resonated with my own experiences. I’ve been mostly reactive to these threat models - supporting academics and activists who have been doxxed after it has happened.

I find I struggle with being a public facing employee and carving some private online spaces for myself. I have dealt with stalking and harassment and supported others in those scenarios. It is really easy to feel overwhelmed - not just by the numerous privacy tasks at hand but at the emotions of so much information being accessible without one’s consent. I like the ideas of breaking things into smaller pieces, taking a harm reduction approach, and including time to work together or in parallel to start to put into place some privacy changes.

I think the lack of preparedness resonates with my library experiences, too. We have had pretty good practices with Zoom/virtual programs after the initial onset of “Zoom bombings,” and I am in regular communication with my department head and director about any potential “controversial” programs. However, I doubt we do enough… I like to communicate with any virtual presenters beforehand how I intend to market their programs and on what social media platforms, in case they have concerns.

Thank you for the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition link! I like this model a lot and working in community could help establish trust/work to build trust for people to approach or at least take materials. It’s a great concept!

I mentioned this in our small breakout group, but my name kinda makes it pretty hard to Google me. The results always tend to be Make a King bed, instead of Makea King. But I have also gone through and adjusted my privacy settings as best I can to limit where I show up in online searches. The one platform that I am public on is LinkedIn so I can use my work history for jobs or potential jobs.

I think the best way to help inform the public on doxxing, online harassment, and intimate partner surveillance is to do a basis workshop on online privacy. Do some simple demonstrations on who can see what with online social media profiles and platforms. I think going through the process of creating an account and confirming their privacy settings is a great way to help patrons understand what to do with their on accounts.

My name is pretty generic, so the most you can really find of me with a casual google search is my youtube account, where you’d learn that I’m really into organizational and productivity youtube. I scrubbed a lot of information back in 2019 when we were escaping a psycho landlord who had threatened to come after us. She didn’t have a legal basis for doing so, and we probably actually could have won a civil suit after her, but it was during the beginning of the pandemic and we just didn’t want to mess with it. I don’t have any social media accounts beyond youtube at this point; I deleted my facebook in 2016 or so, and got rid of my instagram when it got taken over by Meta. Any of my other accounts just don’t have my real name associated with them.

I have actually never run a program before, so I struggle with ideas on how to do programming around ideas I’m passionate about. Especially because I work in a fairly small Teen Services department, and I don’t think we’d have any uptake on a teen-oriented program geared toward privacy etc. I’ve been wanting to design some passive programing 'zines surrounding student loans, privacy, and credit cards, with just some basic information on how they work.

It’s both troubling to me that authors need to ask about this now, and also encouraging THAT authors are making this a condition of their presence.

It’s like, the best doxxing defense that there is lol

Yeah!!! This would be a cool thing for us to adapt in the future for the LFP regional hubs, where we have daylong workshops in different locations and have multiple activities for folks to participate in.

So true. That’s why in LFP we try to have such a multi-faceted approach, including passive materials. We’re getting better at that stuff all the time - flyers, bookmarks, handouts that people can take without having to talk to anyone about their private concern.

LOL I love this. No doxxing here, just mattresses.

Definitely. You can say something broad at the beginning like, “these tools/resources can help people in all kinds of situations” and include domestic violence, harassment, stalking, etc in your examples, but then the class can be general enough that the people in the room don’t need to reveal what their specific, and private, concerns are.

There are so many zinesters in LFP! Here’s one of my favorite projects that folks did a couple years ago: a series of privacy zines for teens: Finsta Project – Library Freedom