A bill originating in the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee Friday would make it illegal to weaponize someone’s personal identifying information against them.
If it becomes law, House Bill 3134 will make it illegal to share a person’s personal information with the intent of threatening or intimidating a person or as part of an effort to incite violence against them.
Because it has originated in committee, HB 3134 had not been filed in the Legislature’s bill tracking system Friday.
The bill creates the crime of public disclosure of personal restricted information.
It’s aimed at an online activity known as “doxxing,” which is when a person’s personal information, usually their phone number or home address, is made public with the goal of people harassing them at home, overwhelming them with phone calls, or sometimes inciting violence against them.
West Virginia’s law would state that there has to be an element of intent to cause violence against someone for that action to become a crime.
Restricted information that would be subject to the law includes Social Security numbers, unlisted telephone numbers, credit card numbers, a driver’s license number, a home address, and a secondary address.
There would be a misdemeanor and felony level to the crime, depending upon who the victim is, Judiciary Counsel Joey Spano said Friday.
If a person shares personally identifying information about another person or their family members with the intent to “threaten, intimidate, or incite the commission of a crime of violence” against them, they can be charged with disclosing personal restricted information.
If a person shares that information with the knowledge that other people will use personal information to threaten, intimidate, or incite violence, they likewise can be charged with the crime.
“People will dig up personal information of jurors, of public officials, that is not in this bill as a crime,” Spano said. “If they do it with intent to create violence against a person, then that is a crime.”
The crime becomes a felony if a person shares restricted information about one of the following people:
- a member of a grand or petit jury;
- a witness in a criminal or civil court case;
- a law enforcement officer;
- an informant or witness in a criminal investigation;
- a prosecuting attorney;
- and any immediate family members of those people.
A person who is convicted of the felony would face up to five years in prison.
The bill will advance to the House for consideration.