PewDiePie’s Marketing Brilliance Is Showing

Rather than jump the gun on Tuesday with this entry for Business Tuesday, I decided to watch what was going on with Felix Kjellberg aka PewDiePie.  He announced on YouTube via a ten-minute rant recently that once his popular YouTube channel reaches 50 million subscribers, he will delete the channel.  Why?  Because YouTube is supposedly being “mean” to him. The Internet went wild over the announcement!  As of earlier this morning, PewDiePie was within scant subscribers of being at the 50 million subscriber goal.

pewdiepie-youtube_8-december-2016

Before the day is out, Felix Kjellberg will undoubtedly have his 50 million subscribers.  However, this doesn’t spell the end of PewDiePie’s presence on the Internet, and it certainly doesn’t spell the end of PewDiePie’s presence on YouTube.  In fact, for those who listened to his video rant where he announced he would be killing his channel, he gave himself a backdoor back in to the platform and laid the groundwork for even greater virtual reality success via his videos.

The Groundwork

Everyone who follows Felix on YouTube knows that his PewDiePie channel isn’t the only channel he has on YouTube.  In fact, he’s had the second YouTube channel with far fewer subscribers for a while now.  Threatening to delete his popular PewDiePie channel isn’t as dramatic as his ten-minute rant made it sound.  Deleting one channel in order to grow his other channel is marketing brilliance.

pewdiepie_8-december-2016

Building A Brand Based On Loyalty

When his PewDiePie channel is deleted (should he decide to go through with what he said he would do), Felix will either fire up another PewDiePie channel on YouTube to which his subscribers will swarm or he anticipates a large migration of loyal followers to subscribe to his lesser known YouTube account he’s had since December 4, 2010.  Regardless of how this plays out, Felix won’t be without his fan base as he will build the new YouTube platform to the multitudes he has previously enjoyed with a difference.  These subscribers will be diehard PewDiePie fans with the less-enthusiastic followers from his early years weeded out.

Cashing In Big Time

Something most people may not realize is that in begging for subscribers to take his channel to 50 million so he can delete his channel means money in his pocket.  YouTube revenues for people like PewDiePie are based on views and subscriptions which means he’s making a pile of money as people (both those familiar with his brand and those who don’t know who he is) tune into YouTube to see what’s going on with this Internet celebrity, and he’s making a pile of money from people (haters and new-found fans) who subscribe to the PewDiePie channel.

If he closes down the PewDiePie channel (because he may opt to hide the channel rather than actually delete it), he’ll make even more money as millions flock to his alternate channel or to his new channel on YouTube.

Sarcasm Or Inflammatory Comments

If you want mainstream media to cover a fringe celebrity’s news, do something that’s going to grab their attention.  In this case, PewDiePie stated the following in his video rant:

  1. YouTube wants to destroy his channel;
  2. PewDiePie’s channel has too much click bait;
  3. PewDiePie’s channel doesn’t have enough family friendly content;
  4. PewiDiePie complains too much to YouTube;
  5. YouTube wants Lilly Singh’s channel to be more popular than PewDiePie’s channel; and
  6. PewDiePie is white and Lilly Singh isn’t.

Now all of those claims are humorous as long as they aren’t taken seriously.  Whether it’s sarcasm or inflammatory comments made to stir the pot, it worked insofar as mainstream media is covering his story.  There’s something for nearly everyone (including conspiracy theorists) to grab hold of and run with on social media.  Nothing gets more attention from the media and on social media than outrageous claims and commentary.

Final Note

From a marketing standpoint, Felix Kjellberg has shown repeatedly that he understands what his audience expects from him, and he never fails to deliver.  This is how he’s climbed to the top of the YouTuber ladder.  His latest grandstanding stunt with his outlandish ire at YouTube is more of that marketing brilliance that he’s demonstrated over the years.    If you’re interested in growing an enormous presence on YouTube, study PewDiePie’s approach to courting and romancing potential viewers and keeping viewers he’s already won over.  His approach may not work for your business, but there’s something to learn from his approach even if you disagree with his way of doing business.

Elyse Bruce

UPDATE (SATURDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2016):  When Felix Kjellberg’s PewDiePie YouTube channel reached 50 million subscribers, he tweeted to his followers that he would delete his channel on December 9, 2016 at 5:00 GST.    The funny thing is that on Saturday, December 10, 2016 his channel was still live on YouTube.

pewdiepie-still-on-youtube-on-10-december-2016
This seems to support my suspicion that Felix’s announcement was meant to push his channel to the 50 million plus subscriber mark.  Brilliant marketing, Felix, and well played!

SUGGESTED READING

NO, INTERNET, YOUTUBE IS NOT KILLING PEWDIEPIE’S CHANNEL BECAUSE HE’S WHITE
http://www.mediaite.com/online/no-internet-youtube-is-not-killing-pewdiepies-channel-because-hes-white/

ONE OF YOUTUBE’S BIGGEST STARS SAYS HE WILL DELETE HIS CHANNEL
http://fortune.com/2016/12/07/felix-kjellberg-pewdie-pie-youtube-delete-account

PEWDIEPIE:  YOUTUBE MAY BE ‘KILLING’ MY CHANNEL BECAUSE I’M WHITE, SO I’LL DELETE IT
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/pewdiepie-youtube-delete-account-subscribers-analytics-white-lily-singh-a7457171.html

 

Turn Off, Tune Out, And Drop Back In

The more society is tied to technology, the more society seems either unwilling or unable to communicate.  If you step away from technology for a moment and observe those around you, it’s amazing how few social interactions seem to be happening despite the fact that most of society believes meaningful communication is going on.

How Connected Are We?

Government statistics for the U.S. indicate that 90% of all Americans (children and adults) have a cellphone.  If Americans aged 45 and older are removed, that number jumps to 97% of Americans 44 years of age and under who have a cellphone.

How Connected Are Minors?

Those between the ages of eight and eighteen spend a large segment of the day connected to technology fromTumblr and  Snapchat to the latest social media platform preferred by the age group.  In fact, according to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, they spend nearly eight hours a day tied to technology.

That’s more time than they spend at school, and more time than they spend engaged in extracurricular activities.  It’s more time than they invest in their immediate and extended family relationships.

Are We Addicted To Technology

The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists Internet Gaming Disorder as a mental illness.  The National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine recognizes Internet Addiction Disorder (also known as Problematic Internet Use, Internet Dependence, or Pathological Internet Use) as a real health condition.

Medically speaking, when doctors and medical researchers use the term disorder, they mean a physical or mental condition that isn’t normal or healthy.  Not being a licensed or accredited medical practitioner, I’m in no position to say more on the subject than what I’ve stated.  These conditions, according to doctors and medical researchers, exist and are very real problems for a segment of society.

What Does This Have To Do With Business

Many people in their personal and professional lives are struggling with information overload as a result of their intense interactivity with technology.  Connected to social media platforms and online sources with up-to-the-minute information (some of it accurate, some of it less so) via multiple devices from cellphones to tablets and more, the importance of meaningful communication is suffering.  When a person suffers from information overload, the tendency is to manage the overload either by shutting down completely (which isn’t the best option in business) or to avoid that which makes the person uncomfortable (which also isn’t the best option in business).

Manage Technology Effectively

Technology isn’t the enemy.  How technology is managed is makes the difference between efficiency and overload.  Pare down your social media presence to a level that’s easily managed.

Have set hours when you use mobile devices.  Turn them off and walk away from them for a few hours a day.  Trust me when I say that the world won’t come to an end for the short while you’re disconnected from virtual reality.

Set limits on how much time you’re willing to invest in virtual reality, and increase the amount of time you spend interacting on a face-to-face basis.

Does Face-To-Face Interaction Really Matter?

As a matter of fact, it is.  Believe it or not, studies have proven that face-to-face interactions lead to decreased violence, and builds trust between individuals.   It creates stronger team dynamics and creates positive learning engagement.  All of these are sharply decreased when personal interactions are ignored in favor of technological connections via virtual reality.

Final Note

The art of conversation is a lost art among many these days.  Conversation is more than just the exchange of words.  Conversation is the exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, ideas, and more, and the spoken word is how those sentiments, observations, opinions, ideas, and more are shared, not merely transmitted.  Conversations are colored with tone and intonation, pitches and passion, motion and emotion.  All of these can be easily misunderstood or misread or quite simply missed when reading texts and memes on the Internet.

Back in the 1960s, Timothy Leary encouraged people to turn on, tune in, and drop out.  In the 2010s, it’s time to turn off, tune out, and drop back in.  You’ll be amazed at how much balance your life will have once you do this.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

COMPUTER AND INTERNET USE IN THE UNITED STATES
http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p20-569.pdf

HOW TECHNOLOGY AFFECTS HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS
http://www.business2community.com/tech-gadgets/how-technology-affects-human-relationships-01326003#IG3CHDzwLwmYKl8d.97

INTERNET ADDICTION: A BRIEF SUMMARY OF RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480687/

INTERNET GAMING DISORDER FACT SHEET
http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/Internet%20Gaming%20Disorder%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

IS AMERICA AT A DIGITAL TURNING POINT?
http://worldinternetproject.com/_files/_Published/_oldis/622_10_year_report_final_release.pdf

IS FACEBOOK MAKING US LONELY?
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/308930/

MORE THAN 90% OF ADULT AMERICANS HAVE CELL PHONES
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/06/more-than-90-of-adult-americans-have-cell-phones/276615/

TECHNOLOGY’S IMPACT ON SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
https://www.calsouthern.edu/content/articles/psychology-articles/technology-impact-on-social-relationships-surprising-data

WHY WE ARE WIRED TO CONNECT
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-are-wired-to-connect/

Fact v Fiction on Social Media

Questionable social media accounts abound, and how some manipulate some of these accounts to their benefit has been explained in earlier blog entries.  This blog entry shares some of the most common questionable accounts found on social media these days.

Parody Accounts

Parody accounts imitate the style of the account being parodied using deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.  Some parody accounts disregard copyright law and use profile photographs from the account being parodied.  If successful, the style of writing can dupe readers into believing they are following the real person’s account.

Imitation Accounts

Like parody accounts, imitation accounts are created to mislead readers into believing they are following the real person’s account.  Unlike parody accounts, however, these accounts are generally created with the intent of smearing the real person’s reputation.

Stalker Accounts

Unlike either parody or imitation accounts, stalker accounts are designed to do an end run on the real person’s account, thereby allowing the stalker to monitor comments (whether by the person being stalked or followers/friends of that person) being made on the real person’s account.

Doxing Accounts

Similar to stalker accounts, doxing accounts maliciously identify (by way of stalking an account) what is most likely to provoke a negative response from the real person.  Once this has been accomplished, the negative reaction is published (oftentimes going viral) with the intent of smearing the real person’s reputation.

Intelligence Accounts

Somewhat similar to stalker accounts and doxing accounts, intelligence accounts are meant to “gather intelligence” from the real person’s account.  This account then shares what’s been gathered, providing their contacts with insider knowledge they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Sleeper Accounts

Sleeper accounts, while technically not fake accounts, are usually accounts held in reserve by one of more persons, for the express purpose of fueling cybermobs into attacking specific targeted accounts.

Bot Accounts

Spam bots make a habit of tweeting and retweeting certain status updates.  They are oftentimes used to get hashtags to trend when the person behind the hashtag doesn’t have enough followers to create a legitimate hashtag trend.  Used in conjunction with some of the other accounts already mentioned, those behind bot accounts can rarely be identified and held responsible for their actions.

Fiction Accounts

An exception to these negative social media accounts are fiction accounts where it’s clear that the account doesn’t belong to a real person (ie. the profile states the account belongs to a fictional character) or where there is sufficient easily found information to confirm that the account belongs to a fictional character.

Final Note

Social media can be far more dangerous than anticipated when unscrupulous and vicious people are of the mindset that anything is fair game … including cyberbullying and cybermobbing those they dislike or with whom they disagree.  Steer clear of these people as much as possible, however, be aware that even if you give such people a wide berth, some may suffer from mental health issues making them that much more dangerous.

When someone’s online behavior crosses the line, don’t convince yourself that they will grow tired of their game and disappear back into the woodworks.  Contact your local police department and file a complaint.  Let cyberbullies deal first-hand with the police instead.

RELATED READING

5 ARGUMENTS AGAINST BUYING FAKE FOLLOWERS
https://elysebruce.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/5-arguments-against-buying-followers/

FAKE FOLLOWERS CAN BREAK YOU
https://elysebruce.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/a-case-study-fake-followers-can-break-you/

MORE ON FAKE FOLLOWERS
https://elysebruce.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/more-on-fake-followers/

WHEN BULLIES FAKE FOLLOW THEMSELVES
https://elysebruce.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/when-bullies-fake-follow-themselves/

Business Videos: Part 2

Part 1 of this 2-part article on Business Videos outlined all the work that needs to be done before work begins on the actual video.  Those who haven’t been involved in this before are usually surprised to learn there’s more work involved on the front end than on the back end when creating an effective and successful video.

Live Action Shots

With the storyboard in place, live action shots can be managed before any filming begins.  The storyboard allows the filmmaker to identify potential locations for live action shots.

Securing signatures (on a one-page contract) that grants permission to the film crew to shoot on location is one step that can’t be put to on the back burner.  Missing signed contracts can result in business video distribution (regardless of whether it’s television or social media or any other distribution network) being stopped in its tracks.

Even with signed permission, always shoot far more footage than you think you’ll need, and go with more than just one take.  The reason for this is that it’s better to have a selection from which to choose the best angle.  If there’s no best angle, you may have to splice two or more takes into one to make the shot work.

Motion Graphics

Motion graphics is a digital technique that combines images and/or audio.  Those credits at the beginning and end of a movie are motion graphics.  The pop-up text on screens during video presentations are motion graphics.  If you nail the right mix of visual and audio components, it will stay with your audience (which is what you want).

From the font used to the way text moves around on the screen or the music swells during emotionally charged moments, having the right motion graphics in place will spell the difference between a good video and a great video.  The right motion graphics create the moods that accompany the message, and sustain the moods in a fluid, transitional linear fashion.

Animation

When you hear the word animation, you probably default to thinking about cartoons.  While that’s one form of animation, there’s more to animation than just cartooning.

Cartooning encompasses many things from staging (to establish mood, create focus, and clarify the message in a shot) to secondary actions (how the action created by the focus causes action to happen in items in the same shot) and on to timing (the most effective sequence of shots) and appeal (the best arrangement of visual and audio).

Voice-Over Recording

Nothing will derail a fantastic video faster than having the wrong voice over talent reading the script.  This is where auditioning talent will save everyone a lot of grief in the long-term.

Think of the car commercials from the 70s where Ricardo Montalbán’s smooth exotically accented voice seduced us into thinking about Corinthian leather.

Think of the Tylenol commercial with the calming voice reassuring viewers that Tylenol would make them feel better soon.

Think of the Dos Equis beer commercial where a cultured voice dishes on the Most Interesting Man in the World.

Now imagine swapping out Ricardo Montalban’s voice with that of Pee Wee Herman, or soothing Susan Sarandon’s voice with that of peppy Fran Drescher’s voice, or having Roy Romano tell us about the Most Interesting Man in the World.  The result is that changing who does the voice over also changes the feel of the commercial.  And this is why you have to audition voice-over talent.

Sound Track

Music can add or detract from a visual presentation.  The purpose of having a sound track is to elicit an emotional response, and as with voice talent, the genre matters as does style, arrangement, and (if there are vocals) the vocalist.

The word entertain actually means to engage the attention.  So while music is supposed to be entertaining, the purpose of using music in your video should be to engage the attention of viewers and hold the attention of viewers.

Whether you use a song that’s easily recognized by the public (e.g. Andrew Gold’s “Thank You For Being A Friend”) or one that’s far less recognizable, remember to secure written permission from the copyright owner(s) to use the music in your video.  Contrary to popular misconception, it’s not prohibitively expensive to do things the right way.

Editing

Simply put, editing is the preparation of materials through correction, revision, and modification, for final presentation.  The purpose of editing is to detect and correct errors and continuity flaws, to clarify the message, to eliminate those parts of the presentation that are unsuitable for the target audience, and to create a smooth flow from start to finish.

Final Product

Once you’ve completed all the steps mention in this entry as well as last week’s, you will have a quality presentation in your hands, with all the legalities and obligations addressed in a timely fashion.

Elyse Bruce

Business Videos: Part 1

Most businesses have toyed with the idea of creating a video to showcase what they do.  Some have gone as far as to actually put together a video while others have been reluctant to do so.  Today’s entry walks readers through the steps to better understand the process.

First Steps First:  You Need A Strategy

Not unlike military maneuvers, you need a strategy before the cameras start rolling.  You need a strategy before the script is written.  You need a strategy even before you come up with a concept.

The dictionary defines strategy as “a high-level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.”  In the case of a video for business purposes, the strategy is the perfect blend of who, what, why, and how.  A wonderful example of this concept is found in the children’s movie, “The Master Of Disguise” starring Dana Carvey.

Before you do anything else, define the who, what, why, and how of the video.  Who are you targeting?  Why are you targeting this audience?  What do you want this audience to do?  And how do you plan on getting that message to your audience?  Once those questions are answered, you’re ready to work with your creative team to come up with a concept.

It Starts With An Idea

Once you’ve got your strategy, it’s time to apply that strategy to the ideas that are presented.  The idea that fits the strategy is the concept — a concept that will help sell or publicize your service(s) or product(s).

Coming up with a concept won’t be as simple as you think.  Many ideas will meet most but not all of the criteria set out by the strategy.  If no idea meets all of the criteria set out by your strategy, keep looking.  There’s no sense in going with a concept that’s almost 100% when a bit more work will yield the concept that’s exactly what you need for the project.  At that point, you can move on to the scriptwriting phase.

What A Script Is

Nearly everyone knows what a script is but what most people don’t know is that not every author or writer can write a script.  Scriptwriting is the art of writing well for mass media.

The Definition of Mass Media

Mass Media is the how technology communicates with a vast majority of the general public.  It’s movies and video games.  It’s hard copy and online newspapers and magazines.  It’s even video games.  But it doesn’t end there.  Whatever the medium, if it communicates with a vast majority of the general public, it’s mass media.

Mass Media Scripting For Your Demographic

Knowing what you want to do and knowing what components are necessary to bring the concept to life.  If you have gotten your strategy right, the concept and scripting will align with your strategy.  In other words, a well-defined strategy will lead to the right concept and when you hire the right person to script your concept, the script will also work as intended.

When you get to this stage, choosing the right person makes a big difference to the final product.  If you choose someone who is great at creating awesome scripts for showy theatrical productions but your concept is for a barebones YouTube commercial, it won’t matter how incredibly talented the scriptwriter is.  That scriptwriter isn’t a good fit with your concept.  Go back to the drawing board and find the right scriptwriter to fit your concept.

Assembling The Assets

Once you have your script in hand, it’s time to assemble the essential assets for your video, and that starts with a detailed storyboard.  A storyboard?  Yes, a storyboard.

Storyboards are visual organizers that create the continuity your video will need to succeed.  Each panel will have technical information included along with a visual representation of what is happening at this point in the video.  In other words, it’s a shot-by-shot call-by-call representation of everything that might be included in the final product.

Final Note

Next Tuesday, I’ll be writing about each of the assets leading to the final product:  The video.  In the meantime, take some time to figure out what your strategy is.  It sounds easy enough, but it may not be as easy as you think.

Elyse Bruce

Abusing the DMCA Take Down Notice Process

DISCLAIMER:  This blog article does not constitute legal advice, and is not to be taken as legal advice.  In all matters of a legal nature, discuss these matters directly with an attorney or solicitor licensed to practice law in your community.

Over the past three to four weeks, a self-proclaimed leading UK autism campaigner has been caught in a controversy of his own making.  He has stated for years that he doesn’t believe that vaccines cause autism.

A few months back, he became one of a number of Admins for a popular anti-vaxx Facebook page where the members believe that vaccines cause autism.  He was made an Admin in part because of his social media friendship with the founder of the group (who also runs an autism organization), and in part because he began to support their views.

He also promoted the Andrew Wakefield movie “Vaxxed” which claims that vaccines cause autism, and purports that the CDC is involved in some sort of conspiracy.

He posted three videos to the group in June stating that no one was going to “bully” him into quitting as an Admin of the group.  Another video was posted the previous month promoting his own 20-minute movie about being bullied at age 10 that was to be filmed over 6 days in August (which is now being filmed over three months from August through to October).

But was this UK autism campaigner being bullied on social media as he claimed?

What was going on is that other vocal autism advocates were asking questions, and his response to them was to threaten to sue them for asking those questions.  So some of those vocal autism advocates made videos that showed the disparity in what this autism campaigner had said.

This past week, the autism campaigner has been filing DMCA takedown notices claiming copyright infringement because the videos provide actual proof of what he said in different videos.  He has then posted screenshots from YouTube, stating that any more “copyright infringement” will result in the offender’s YouTube channel being suspended.

YouTube DMCA
Unfortunately, the autism campaigner doesn’t seem to have an understanding of what is and isn’t allowed by the Copyright Acts in various countries, including his own country.

Regardless of what country’s Copyright Act is being discussed, they all include a “fair use” clause that allows portions of a copyright to be used for the purposes of criticism, news reporting, teaching, or parody.  This clause allows people to reproduce, distribute, and exhibit  specific portions of copyrighted materials without authorization of the copyright holder(s) and protected from prosecution for copyright infringement.

Fair Use Clause
When uploading written or recorded works or commentary to the Internet, it’s important to note that having a portion of what you have written or recorded used in a derivative work that’s covered by the “fair use” clause isn’t what DMCA take down notices are meant to address.

For those autism advocates who have received DMCA take down notices on YouTube for your videos covered by the “fair use” clause in the Copyright Act, simply reply to the notice by stating you have followed what is outlined in the “fair use” clause.  The strike against your account will be removed, and your video will be available for viewing once again.

Elyse Bruce

OTHER INTERESTING ARTICLES

5 Arguments Against Buying Followers
https://elysebruce.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/5-arguments-against-buying-followers/

A Case Study: Fake Followers Can Break You
https://elysebruce.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/a-case-study-fake-followers-can-break-you/

More On Fake Followers
https://elysebruce.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/more-on-fake-followers/

When Bullies Fake Follow Themselves
https://elysebruce.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/when-bullies-fake-follow-themselves/

Breaking Down the (DMCA) Takedown
https://elysebruce.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/breaking-down-the-dmca-takedown/

 

Internet Mudslingers

DISCLAIMER:  This blog article does not constitute legal advice, and is not to be taken as legal advice.  In all matters of a legal nature, discuss these matters directly with an attorney or solicitor licensed to practice law in your community.

The Internet seems to be a sort of virtual Wild West with mudslingers shooting at will and digital sheriffs being stretched in their efforts to keep the law in the land of the nebulous cloud and the seamless source.  The future of the Internet is uncharted when it comes to these mudslingers and their posses.

Doxing is when someone’s personal information is published on the Internet and contacting employers and/or businesses employing that person is made to defame, libel, or slander the person.

It’s an approach that, while unethical, isn’t always actionable.  When the information shared is publicly available information, the intent of posting the information determines whether it’s actionable.

Publicly available information

For example, information that’s in the phone book isn’t doxing if it’s republished.  If you don’t want that information made available, then you have to take steps to protect your information.

Lessen your digital footprint

Contact all businesses and organizations that might have your personal information publicly available, and request that the information no longer be made available.  In some cases, this means you will have to provide alternate contact information.

Each time you play a game or answer a quiz online that requires you to give consent to a third-party accessing your information, you’re leaving yourself open to your information being spread far and wide.   Every time you post on consumer feedback sites, search engines crawling the Internet will catalogue your comments and reviews even if you go back and delete those comments and reviews at a later date.  Those cookies that you agree to when you visit a website or blog?  Those cookies are mining your data with your consent.

Bottom line?  Use the Internet with the “buyer beware” caveat at the forefront of your interactions, and where possible, try to erase your digital footprint to date.

Alternate contact information

Instead of having your physical home address listed, provide a mailbox address instead.  Instead of having your personal phone number listed, provide a cellphone number that isn’t connected to your physical home address.  Of course, when it comes to government forms, you’ll still have to provide them with your physical home address but most government forms allow users to include alternate contact information where you can be contacted.

Doxing is illegal

Actually, it isn’t necessarily illegal, although it can be.

People consent to doxing

Technically speaking, each time you have allowed your private information to be published, you are consenting to have it republished elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a phone book or a membership directory or anywhere else on and off the Internet.

When it comes to websites, sometimes the Terms Of Service are such that you don’t even realize you are surrendering more than you thought.  Some Terms of Service state clearly that your information is sold to third-parties.  When’s the last time you took the time to read the Terms of Service of a website you visit?

Each time you have registered for an account on a website – whether it’s a free or paid account — you are providing the website with your private information.  Some of that information is information you knowingly provide, and some of that information is information you have consented to provide by agreeing to use the website.

Watch the free stuff

Even those great free or discounted offers leave you open to providing more personal information than you might otherwise provide.  Have you ever answered a small survey for a fast food restaurant so you can get something for free the next time you visit?  You give up a lot of information in exchange for that free good item.

Most of the small surveys automatically opt you into databases and you probably don’t realize you’ve opted into those databases.

Reputable businesses don’t do that

Except that reputable businesses usually do exactly that:  They gather your personal information with permission and then they share that information with other companies.  When you register a product or file a product’s warranty with the manufacturer, you’ve agreed to have the company not only contact you in the future, but to sell your information to third parties.  Surprise!

Last but not least

The use of P2P networks is one that’s been discussed on this blog a number of times.  I don’t condone illegal downloads.

Networks rely on connections between computers.  They don’t make a pit-stop at a server where the information is stored.  Networks open the uploader and downloader to each other which is implied consent to make personal information available to each other.

Final Note

Doxing seems to be the wave of unethical angry people with a bent on wreaking revenge for some real or perceived slight.  As much as possible, don’t give such people a foothold into your life.

Keep your own business website and/or blog as dox free as possible, and remove attempts by commenters to post toxicly on your sites.

In a nutshell, posting publicly available information isn’t illegal per se, but if it’s protected information, the charge could wind up being one of identity theft or criminal harassment or stalking.

Elyse Bruce

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