Doxxing and Privacy Reform, the Establishment of a New Statutory Tort

The Federal government has proposed new civil and criminal laws to target the practice of doxxing.  The proposed laws will allow individuals to seek redress through the courts if they have fallen victim to doxxing and give individuals greater control and transparency over their personal information, including the introduction of new strengthened individual rights to access, object, erase, correct, and de‑index their personal information. 

What is “Doxxing”

Doxxing is the intentional online exposure of an individual’s identity, private information or personal details without their consent. The Attorney General has defined doxxing to include:

  • revealing the identity of someone who was previously anonymous (for example, someone who uses a pseudonym);
  • revealing specific information about someone that allows them to be contacted or located, or their online security to be breached; and/or
  • revealing sensitive or intimate information about someone that can damage their credibility or reputation (for example, their private medical, legal, or financial records, or personal messages and photos usually kept out of public view).

Proposed Laws

On 13 February 2024, the Attorney General Mark Dreyfus held a conference at Parliament House addressing the issue of doxxing.  In this address, he explained that the Government will bring forward, as part of the reforms to the Privacy Act, new provisions to deal with the practice of doxxing.

On 11 March 2024, the Attorney General’s Department opened public consultation on doxxing reform, the proposed reforms include:

  • a statutory tort for serious invasions of privacy to allow individuals to seek redress through the courts where they have fallen victim to doxxing;
  • providing individuals with greater control and transparency over their personal information such as the introduction of new or strengthened individual rights to access, object, erase, correct, and de-index their personal information; and
  • progressing privacy reform proposals contained in the Privacy Act Review. Particularly those that bring the Privacy Act into the digital age, uplift protections, and raise awareness of obligations for responsible personal information handling.

There has been no official publication on what the reformed criminal provision or penalty will look like. Though, it has been framed as the criminal offence of ‘malicious doxxing’ and is expected to include imprisonment.

Lavan Comment

Doxxing is not a novel issue, and with the rise of the internet and online platforms it has become increasingly more common.  

It is clear, that measures are needed to be put in place to improve Australia’s cyber security and protect Australians and their personal data.

What the new measures look like, and how they are implemented, remains to be seen.

If you have any queries arising from this update, please do not hesitate to contact Iain Freeman, Partner in Lavan’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team.

Disclaimer – the information contained in this publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice in relation to any particular matter you may have before relying or acting on this information. The Lavan team are here to assist.