The federal government has begun consulting on its planned crackdown on doxxing, revealing more information on what practices will be included in the new scheme.

It will now cover the release of sensitive information that could lead to public embarrassment, leading to concerns over the scope of the reforms.

The government last month announced plans to introduce new laws to criminalise doxxing, which it defined as the “targeted and malicious release of personal information without permission”.

This was in response to the publishing of a WhatsApp chat comprising Jewish writers and artists by pro-Palestinian activists, which was branded “disturbing” by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

Dreyfus has now launched a two-week public consultation period for these measures, which he said would complement planned reforms to the Privacy Act.

“The Albanese government takes the protection of Australians’ privacy and personal information very seriously,” Dreyfus said.

“The increasing use of online platforms to harm people through practices like doxxing, the malicious release of their personal information without their permission, is a deeply disturbing development.”

Along with the consultation, the government will also be holding a roundtable discussion on the reforms with key stakeholders, including those with lived experience and media organisations, in an effort to balance competing rights.

The call for submissions to the consultation reveals some details on how the government will approach the crackdown on doxxing.

The government will be defining doxxing as the “intentional online exposure of an individual’s identity, private information or personal details without their consent”.

It outlined three types of doxxing that will be included in the reforms: de-anonymising, targeting and de-legitimising.

De-anonymising doxxing is “revealing the identity of someone who was previously anonymous”, such as through the use of a pseudonym, according to the government.

It has defined targeting doxxing as “revealing specific information about someone that allows them to be contacted or located”, such as their phone number, address, or account username.

The third type of doxxing, dubbed de-legitimising, is the revealing of “sensitive or intimate information about someone that can damage their credibility or reputation”, such as their financial or medical records, or personal messages and photos.

The harm resulting from these acts can include the targets being left vulnerable or fearful of public embarrassment, humiliation or shaming, the consultation page said, such as from discrimination based on personal characteristics or damage to reputation.

Privacy Act amendments

The government’s crackdown will involve the tailoring of existing or planned Privacy Act reforms to target the practice of doxxing.

These include the planned introduction of a new statutory tort for serious invasions of privacy, allowing individuals to seek redress through the courts if they are the victim of doxxing, greater control and transparency over personal information, and the progression of other privacy reforms.

The further release of information on the doxxing reforms are as “clear as mud”, according to Greens digital rights spokesperson David Shoebridge, and have “only added to the already considerable confusion about their plans and the harms they are seeking to address”.

“These doxxing laws appear to be a knee-jerk reaction rather than a serious attempt to identify where doxxing is really occurring and causing harm to individuals,” Shoebridge said.

“The current proposal is confused and unhelpful.”

Shoebridge raised questions over what will be included under the doxxing reforms.

“Of the three examples of types of doxxing provided in the consultation, one is clearly doxxing while the other two are margin calls at best – that’s a very troubling start,” he said.

“The law should respond very seriously to situations where a person’s contact information and location are shared with the clear intent for others to cause them harm. That’s the core of doxxing and that’s what any law reform should target.

“If this is done poorly, doxxing may end up being used just like our defamation laws which are often used as a weapon to protect the reputations of the rich and powerful rather than a shield for people who genuinely need help.”