GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The public is searching for answers after the death of Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Congolese immigrant shot and killed by a Grand Rapids Police Officer on April 4.
Some have taken to speculating online who the officer might be. Multiple officers have been the subject of public suspicion, even though we know there is only one officer involved in the shooting.
It's the beginning stages of a potentially dangerous practice called "doxing," a Ferris State University professor warns.
“Doxing is basically a privacy-based attack, where you try to release information out on the internet,” Director of Cybersecurity and Data Analysis Greg Gogolin said.
Information like an address or other private details are readily available for almost anyone with a social media presence.
“People should step back so the situation doesn’t get worse,” Gogolin said.
Wrong information is also difficult to remove.
"In many cases you can't," Gogolin said.
It's a difficult practice for law enforcement to prevent.
“If this were to get out of hand, there can be vigilante problems. There can be all kinds of safety issues,” Gogolin said.
The biggest risk, according to a professor at Ferris State, is retaliation.
Once you "dox" someone and share their private information online, you become a target.
"Let's say you 'dox' me. Then I find out it's you. Then my friends, or my associates, "dox" you. It starts this vicious cycle," Gogolin said.
Doxing doesn't just put the person whose information is being shared at risk. It also puts their family, friends and loved ones' privacy in jeopardy as well.
READ MORE: Michigan Department of State condemns killing of Patrick Lyoya, will not release personal records