People ask me to dox them on TikTok - and they're shocked by how easy it is for me to find out their secrets




Magnifying glass hovering over social media icons in a safe 2x1
Magnifying glass hovering over social media icons in a safe 2x1  

This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with Kristen, 32, a Chicago-based server best known for her TikTok account, @NotKahnJunior. Kristen's last name has been withheld for privacy reasons, but her identity is known to Insider. Kristen uses her TikTok account to "consensually dox" users and reveal their birthdays using just social media. 

My "consensual doxxing" content started completely by accident. I saw a TikTok trend of people using voice-over audio that says, "Tell me you don't look your age without telling me you don't look your age," then they would claim to be a totally different age. I saw a lot of people lying - like people who were clearly 25 saying they're 50.

There was one woman who said she was 21, and a lot of people in her comments were arguing that she looked older. A couple of days later, she posted another video saying, "How about you actually guess my age if you know it?" I took that as consent for me to make a funny video. In the video, I said, "Well, I know that you're not 21 because I went on your Instagram and saw your friend tagged you in a photo. You're in the same sorority, her age is this old, because she posted her driver's license and covered her age with her thumb, but she didn't cover up the year. So you are actually 29 to 30 years old."

And now it's evolved into something wild: People just never stopped commenting, "Hey, try me, try me!" When I made a silly TikTok about how I could find someone's birthday, I didn't expect to become a data-privacy educator or someone who taught people how to lock down their social-media profiles. I was just showing people how creepy I am! But I've turned it into a very helpful tool. My top video has 15 million views right now, and I have over 30 million views total, which is absolutely insane to me.

On her investigative methods

My method is so chaotic. I'll go through my TikTok comments, pick about 10 people, and click through to their profiles until I find someone where I'm like, "OK, this seems like it's tough." Then I start to look harder, and if there are at least one or two interesting steps, I go for it. People really enjoy when I use unconventional steps that are more than looking at their Facebook and seeing that their mom wished them happy birthday. In one of my videos, I was able to figure out a girl's identity because her initials and her fiancé's initials were on a pillow in the background of a TikTok, and then I found her Facebook profile, which said she's engaged to someone with those initials.

A lot of people say all I have to do is type a name into a records website or do a reverse image search. But the point is for me to find your birthday using only social media. I think it's more fun to show people I'm using only information that they or their friends or family have provided on social-media profiles. Just typing someone's name into a reference website would not make for a very fun TikTok.

I get a lot of comments that say, "There's no way you can find me because I don't have any information about myself on my TikTok. I don't have my name on there. I don't have any indication of what my birthday is." But what I've shown in a few TikToks is that family members expose people more than anything else. You may be safe in every aspect of your life, but your great-aunt could have posted on Facebook that they're so proud of you for graduating college, or your mom could say, "Happy birthday, I can't believe you're 25 today." And that's just a direct gateway for me. Is that something you can control or even know about if you don't have social media? No. People ask me, "Hey, how do I lock down my social media?" Sometimes it's impossible to be completely anonymous online unless you have talked to every single person that you know.

People ask me, "Do you ever fail? Can you ever not find people?" I can't find people all the time. If they have a private profile, and they have no profile picture, and their username is just letters and numbers, that's a dead end for anybody, unless you hack into an account. People think the goal is to make me fail, but I think it's a win for people if they're trying to remain anonymous.

On consensual doxxing 

When people first started asking me to dox them, I thought, "Are people serious? They actually want me to expose their information?" I use the word "dox" to mean consensual doxxing. I want to be clear that I black out information about anyone other than the person who asked to be doxxed. I know very well that what I'm doing isn't even close to actual doxxing, because I see doxxing as a malicious way to harm somebody (like what the fringe forum KiwiFarms does). I've tried to tread carefully with my content and make sure that I don't get associated with that. Even though I'm using the word "doxxing," I like to remind people I'm just doing this in a fun way for people who consent. And people say that it's fun to watch my process or they find my TikToks entertaining, and I think lots of people are just interested in seeing how their information might look to someone else.

I struggle a lot with people who comment, "You're teaching people how to stalk others, you're teaching people how to be creepy." I'm not telling people how to do bad things. I'm just teaching people which parts of their social media have cracks and what they can do to lock down their profiles better. Plus, plenty of people who want to do this kind of thing are already doing it. I'm just doing what I would do to vet someone when I got matched with someone on Tinder. And I've gotten a lot of people in my comments who say, "Oh, this is what I do, I'm not alone!" I think it's cool to see from a security aspect that other people do these kinds of things to protect themselves before they go on a date, and it's helpful in teaching people new ways to be safe.

There are also people telling me that I should go into data privacy or intelligence analysis. I've gotten some offers to do contract work investigating things, like from producers on television shows saying, "Hey, we'd love for you to source this information about people so we can find them for interviews." I've had some charities reach out about doing different things like helping families find each other. And there have been people who say, "Hey, I'll Venmo you $100 if you help me find my ex-husband to pay child support." It's so wild that people feel like they can trust me to help them solve a legal matter. I haven't pursued any of that. I usually respond by telling them that they're overestimating my abilities. I'm just the TikTok birthday woman, you know?

On how generations differ in their approach to data privacy

I've learned a lot about how much information each generation has on the internet. If they are Gen X or older, I've noticed that there's less about them on the internet. The main place I can find them is Facebook, because that was the first social media a lot of people had. I know that if I go to Twitter, I won't be able to find a Gen Xer incessantly tweeting about their birthday.

I think millennials are the easiest to find because we're on every social-media platform. I know if someone was born between 1990 to 1995, there's a great chance that they will have Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram. And even though we were told not to give out all our information, no one ever told us not to tweet about how excited we are to celebrate our 15th birthday party.

I can usually find Gen Z if they're older. But if they're like 20, 21, 22, I do find it a little tough. I think it has to do with the fact that the internet has gotten older and people have been told to be more careful. Gen Z doesn't have as much information out there as millennials.

I think we're at a very strange time in the world where people want to share everything online, but they also want to be mysterious. I don't know if more people want to be anonymous. People want to be seen, but not too much.

On how she feels while doxxing

I feel manic when I do it. It's pure chaos. My husband and I will be sitting on the couch and I'll say to him, "Hey, if you talk to me for the next 10 minutes and I don't respond, I'm trying to find someone's information on the internet." I kind of zone into my phone - "Okay, here's the profile. Let me go to the followers. Let me go to the first follower. Maybe this person will be on Facebook. Let me go on their Facebook. Let me go through their photos. Maybe their mom wished them a happy birthday. No, this is a dead end. Let me go to Instagram." It's a very chaotic method. But my goal is to find someone as quickly as possible, not necessarily in the most efficient way. And when I get it, the feeling really is like solving a puzzle or completing a video game. I always sit up and I'm like, "Oh, my gosh. Yes!" And then I immediately have to go back to my camera roll - I take dozens of screenshots along the way - to see how the hell I got there. It's not so much me celebrating, but when I do find someone's birthday, I have an overwhelming sense of pride, especially if it was a little more difficult to find.

I get stressed though. Sometimes I'll find a cool detail about somebody, and I'll be like, "Other people would find the way that I found this bit of information fascinating. I have to see this through." This happened about a week ago, when I spent 20 minutes watching this woman's high-school graduation from 2012 on YouTube. I'll get tunnel vision instead of just taking the loss and moving on to someone else.

On where this could go in the future

I'm enjoying the ride right now. I did not expect when I made the first TikTok for it to snowball into people emailing me and saying, "Hey, I'm sharing this with my data-privacy groups. This is so impressive, you're really educating people." Right now there are so many avenues for me to go, but I'm just going to ride the cool, consensual doxxing wave and appreciate that people like my content.

Adrienne Matei is a freelance journalist based in Vancouver, Canada. She writes about culture, technology, lifestyle, the environment, and more.

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