Woman is Doxxed After #PlaneBae Viral Tweet
A bit of fun or a breach of privacy?
In early July, a woman named Rosey Blair exchanged seats with another woman on a plane.
She then shared photos of the female passenger she swapped with talking to the man seated next to her, adding her own romantic narrative.
Thousands of social media users saw this as a bit of fun. But she didn’t get consent from the people she was photographing.
Many people who spotted the ensuing viral thread questioned whether it was a set-up, or a clever viral advert for an airline. It wasn’t. It was someone getting attention on social media and revelling in it, irrespective of the privacy connotations for the people involved.
When Tweets Go Viral
The situation quickly got out of hand. Within two days, US news networks picked up the story. The thread was retweeted tens of thousands of times.
The guy in the photos, Euan Holden, embraced the media attention and did a major TV interview in the US. He allegedly alluded to romance or even sexual interest between him and the woman he was sitting next to, and (also allegedly) helped others to identify her online.
But in the background, the woman who was documented without her knowledge was going through hell. In a statement issued today, she revealed that she has been doxxed and harassed in real life, and had to delete her social media accounts.
Doxxing is the practise of posting an individual’s personal details online, such as their home address.
She also says, correctly, that #PlaneBae is cautionary tale about online privacy. After all, this woman’s face was not shown, but she was identified within hours, and completely against her will.
Business Insider does not share the woman’s name, but her first name is ironically provided by Rosey Blair in a widely retweeted apology.
You Have a Right to Privacy
Most of us take our personal privacy for granted. We assume that, because we use the internet in private, nobody’s watching. We think that when someone takes a photo of us, it won’t be widely shared.
But whether it’s a photo, or a browsing history, it’s been proven that there is no such thing as anonymity online, and we are all responsible for what we post.
Most of the #PlaneBae photos, now deleted, showed nothing more than elbows and backs of heads. But it was still relatively easy for the woman to be tracked down, named, harassed, and doxxed.
Taking photos in a public place is not a crime, but sharing them on social media is a grey area. For example, there is a big difference between sharing a photo on a private account and a public one.
Even ‘closed’ accounts are not truly safe, since it’s easy to screenshot messages and share them more widely.
There are lessons to be learned about individual privacy, identity theft, and the need to act responsibly with digital content when it contains other people. It’s also a reminder that everything we do, online and offline, could be tracked and used to our disadvantage.
Rosey Blair now recognises what's at stake and has deleted the social media posts, but not before the damage was done.