4: Leaks: From Whistleblowing to Doxxing

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This chapter will detail the underlying ethical arguments for leaks most broadly and how these, in turn, shape how both the retaliation hacks as well as penetrative information gathering hacks are to be judged. To help classify the discussion, those information leaks involving insiders using their privileged position to collect and then distribute information will be referred to as whistleblowing. In comparison, those instances where an outsider gains access to internal information and shares it widely, will be referred to as ‘doxxing’ (a neologism originating from a spelling alteration of the abbreviation ‘docs’, a shorter version of ‘documents’). This will include ‘institutional doxxing’ when referring to organizations or corporations having their internal documentation shared, and ‘individual doxxing’ when referring to a person’s personal information being shared. This chapter will set out the relevant ethical issues in order to then evaluate the most prominent case examples. It will argue that when a leak reveals sufficient wrongdoing or pertains to information where there is a right to know, often involving information of a political nature, and that the act of leaking does not cause direct harm to another, there are instances where both whistleblowing and doxxing can be justified.

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