Tales of a Cyberstalker (Vol. 2 of 8)

The Riesling Research Session

Okay, you have this ‘friend’. We will call her Anita Life.   Anita is 40, lives alone and is considering a fourth cat. One lonely night with a magnum of Riesling at her disposal, Anita flops down in front of her computer.  While “researching” options for freezing her eggs, Anita daydreams about her ex, Millard Roberts.  Around the third glass of Riesling, Anita types in the name Millard Roberts aka Anita’s ex-boyfriend aka the man for whom she worked three jobs to put through law school with the understanding that once Millard graduated and scored his wallet busting job, he will reciprocate, allowing Anita to attend law school so that she could also have a wallet busting job and together they would have wallet busting careers. For the two lovebirds, marriage and kids were out of the equation because they lived by the motto “Partnership not Pampers.” Well  $68,419 later, Millard apparently had a change of heart thanks to 22 year-old Miss Miami Beach fifth runner up. But thanks to Google, Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Chrome, a fourth glass of Riesling and the two-year old Facebook page Mrs. Roberts aka Miami Beach Homewreaker forgot to take down that graphically detailed x-rated weekend on Girls Gone Wild Island, pre-Millard, Anita was able to find their wedding registry, wedding web page, wedding announcement in all five newspapers that ran it, the company who printed their wedding invitations, Mrs. Roberts episode of Dr. 90210 and Mrs. Roberts in the background of a party which featured the third episode of the Real Housewives of Miami, a street view image of their 6,000 square foot Mediterranean Revival in Palm Beach, their landscape architect’s website who used their house on his home page, a copy of Mrs. Roberts partial college transcript (She didn’t finish. How could she when someone had to supervise the renovations?) and the name of her stylist at her standing weekly appointment at Fekkai that Anita may or may not have cancelled all with just a few keystrokes, and a fifth glass.  Anita’s drunken surfing proved that privacy is something that people are not too concerned with these days.  With the popularity of Facebook, Twitter and mobile device check-ins, so many facets of a person’s life is placed on the Internet that it is ridiculously easy to locate an individual and discover intimate details about their private life.  See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tAsaDpRhfM&feature=related.  As the video shows, it is alarming the amount of information that you can locate on the average person whose friends, family, photos, jobs, medical information, religious affiliation, favorite books and current residence can be found with just a few wine-fuelled key strokes.  Social media gurus may deem these tools as a great tool to keep in touch with friends and families, but to a cyberstalker’s victims, Facebook, Twitter, mobile devices and the Internet make the victim’s life an open book for taunts and threats from a cyberstalker and their minions.  Anita’s Riesling Research Session begs the question of what is the definition of privacy? Privacy could mean anything from being completely off the grid with zero connections to the plugged in world to having a private conversation on a packed rush hour train.  The range can be enormous depending on one’s generation and their location in the world, but who is correct?

According to www.dictionary.com (citing Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law), privacy is “the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.  A state of being free from public attention.”  Okay, but what does that definition mean for a cyberstalker’s victim and would Anita allegedly buying a Tracfone to allegedly drunk dial the Roberts’ house each of the forty one times she drove past it over a six day period violate their privacy?

According to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, privacy allows a person to be secure in their house, papers, effects and person, against unreasonable search and seizure.[1]  However, the Fourth Amendment only protects an individual’s privacy from intrusion by the government and does not protect against privacy violations by a private individual.  To put it simply, the Fourth Amendment protects the individual from unauthorized electronic surveillance, searches and hacking from the government, but does not protect you from your psychotic ex-girlfriend watching you and your spouse’s every move for two weeks, “allegedly”.  However, all hope is not gone for Mrs. Roberts’ privacy.  Most states have passed cyberstalking laws to protect victims from threats due to intrusions into their private lives by electronic means.  See http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=13495 detailing each state’s statute on cyberstalking.

In alternative, don’t the Roberts have some responsibility for placing their private lives in public forums?  Their wedding announcement ran in no less than five newspapers.  Mrs. Roberts’ placed her x-rated photos on Facebook and she participated in two television shows.  Can you blame Anita Life for being tempted by information that was easy to find.  Anita did not need to pay a private investigator to dig up the information nor did she need to dig through the Roberts’ trash or break into their house to gather this information.  All Anita had to do was swipe a few Riesling induced keys and within a matter of minutes all the Roberts’ personal information was up on her screen, live and in color.   Couldn’t the Roberts have done more to protect their information from a drunken ex-girlfriend?  Yes.  They could have limited the security on the Facebook account to just friends. The Roberts could have vigilantly perused websites to remove information about their house (location, size, value, etc.), familiar information, occupation, social groups, interests, affiliated charities, religion, credit status and race.  The Roberts could have also monitored or contacted governmental agencies or companies who sell or publish information and any preferences.  The Roberts could pay for unlisted phone numbers.  They could also advise their friends and family not to disclose any of their personal information or link them to pictures on their social media accounts. Mrs. Roberts should never have posted the x-rated pictures to on the Internet and further onto a social media website. But is this reasonable?  How far would the Roberts have to go to protect their personal information?  How much responsibility does the victim have to protect himself/herself and how much of the stalking and the ease in locating the victim and their habits are on the shoulders of the cyberstalker?  For now potential victims of cyberstalking are free to post their private information in public forums as they see fit.  The stalkers must, however, show restraint and cannot willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follow, harass, or cyberstalk another person or face first-degree misdemeanor charges in Florida.[2]  In other states like Alaska, the cyberstalking offense falls under “stalking” and is punishable as a Class C felony.[3]

Cyberstalking laws punish cyberstalkers for delving into an all you an eat buffet of private information.  So for the Anita Life’s of the world, enjoy the booze triggered searching, but STOP when your painstaking investigation leads your drunken bravery to email, text or post a three sheets to the wind threat, conduct countless drive bys or exhaustive drunk dialing of your unsuspecting victim.  This could land you in jail all over one Riesling magnum too many and a wealth of online information.


[1] The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.  USCA CONST Amend. IV-Search and Seizure

[2] Fla. Stat. 784.048(2).

[3] Alaska Stat. Sec. 11.41.260.

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~ by sjohn7887 on October 26, 2011.

3 Responses to “Tales of a Cyberstalker (Vol. 2 of 8)”

  1. Personally, I don’t think what Anita did was healthy but I don’t think it was illegal or cyberstalking. In our virtual law book, Duranska claims most states stalking crimes state the person doing the stalking has to have “the intent to place (the subject) in fear of death or serious bodily injury.” If this is the case, then as the Roberts had no idea their information was being looked at, they could not be placed in fear and thus would not be victims of stalking. I also agree that privacy should be relative based on how much personal information you choose to make available. Celebrities have less privacy protection because they live their life out in the open. If Mrs. Roberts was really on TV shows then she has no right to complain about an ex of her husband watching the show or seeing what she purposely puts on Facebook.

  2. Earlier this year there was as journalist in Australia who was questioned by the police because he did a demo on how you could hack someone’s FaceBook account. It was part of a speech at a convention but he did the demo using the FB account of the wife of his chief rival! He was not arrested but he was temporarily detained and his iPad was seized. LOL so be careful with the rest of your postings!!

  3. Sorry, here’s the link to the journalist story: http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2011/05/17/journalist-quizzed-and-ipad-seized-by-police-after-reporting-facebook-privacy-bug/

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