Tales of a Cyberstalker (Vol. 8 of 8)

Big Brother has Arrived, Now What?

As this blog series draws to a close, we will discuss the social benefits and harm to social media and other technology used to facilitate cyberstalking.  Today’s blog will follow up on recent developments in social media and cyberstalking technology while weighing the benefits and harms to society.

First let’s discuss some of the benefits of social media, e.g. Facebook and Twitter.  It is obvious that these instruments allow you to connect with friends and family on a large scale.  Additionally the speed in which pictures and events can be disseminated at the rock bottom price of free is a definite plus for social media.[1] To illustrate the social benefits, let’s explore the use of Twitter and Facebook by your sister, let’s call her Julia Clever.

Clever had a baby two weeks ago.  Today, Clever used Facebook send pictures of her bundle of joy to her friends and family.  She also tweeted her joys and anxieties about life with baby to her Twitter followers.  Note that the tweeting started on the birthing table.  TMI.

Anyway, all Clever’s five hundred family and friends can see the baby’s first bath[2] and receive painstaking details about every small nuance of the baby from now until he graduates from college.  If Clever had to send this information out via snail mail, she would have stopped at birth announcements based on the postage costs alone.  Let’s be frank, if it were not for social media, most of Clever’s five hundred Facebook friends and Twitter followers would not have known that she was pregnant.  Unfortunately, this immediate dissemination of information is a gift and a curse.  The curse is that others may also see the information about Clever’s baby including her friendly neighborhood psychopath.  I know some of you are thinking, but Facebook has privacy settings.  Yes, it does.  However, in 2009, Facebook changed the privacy without your knowledge. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRoIImAYo6w.  The changes included making your private information public and sharing your personal information with app makers and advertisers.  Yes, this sounds like Anita Life 2.0 all over again.  Furthermore, deleted information could still be found on Facebook.  Do not dismay, as recent as November 30th, the FTC put a stop to Facebook’s violation of your privacy. Facebook must now alert its users every time it makes changes to its privacy settings and must subject itself to data auditing every two years for the next 20 years.  Finally, Facebook must remove information from their database on deactivated accounts.  If Facebook refuses to comply, it will be fined $16,000 per infringement of your privacy.[3]  Facebook has approximately 150 million U.S. users, multiply that by $16,000 … well that fine is enough to make Facebook walk the straight and narrow.[4]  A similar investigation has commenced in Europe.[5]  There is a silver lining to that story and a benefit to society, although Facebook cannot return to you all the information that has left its site during last two years in which it changed your privacy settings, Facebook is now obligated to keep your information private.

As for Anita Life 2.0 aka Google, she has a privacy channel. Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/user/googleprivacy?blend=7&ob=5.  If you watched the video you will learn that Google has made the effort to have you control the dissemination of your information via Google.  For example, you have the option in Google Talk to have your chat occur off the record.  Google Dashboard allows you to view all of the information associated with your Google account and change the privacy settings on the information.  Further, Google features dataliberation that allows you to move your information out of Google.  Google has also made strides in protecting your privacy but it has also expanded its reach.  Another breaking story, Google Maps has gone inside.  Watch out Mr. and Mrs. Boring, Google Maps has not gone undercover, it has gone inside buildings and airports.[6]  Your stalker does not have to stop at the front door, he or she can now track your movements all around the store but so can the pesky salesperson who thinks you might shoplift a pair of tacky pink mules.

For those who are directionally challenged, Google Maps is a good thing.  You can now get your Christmas shopping done faster by allowing Google Maps to point you to the exact location of your next money-pilfering depository.  This version of Google Maps is already in some airports and stores, but is only available on Android phones.  If you did not figure it out, the harm is even less privacy.  Google Maps can track you to the restroom, Stall #2.

And allow others to track you as well with pinpoint accuracy.  But Google Maps can also help you get from Terminal 1, Gate 16A to Terminal 5, Gate M20 at Chicago O’Hare airport.

These are just a few examples of the double-edged sword which social media and technology provide to society. Here are a few more.  Social media and mobile phones limit the amount of face-to-face interactions and preserve the anonymity of the user. The technology has shrunk the world, making it easier to communicate with people thousands of miles away.  Some technology also allow users to communicate in other languages.  However, this freedom has a downside, ask Zeoli, the Maryland-based Buddhist leader from Vol. 4, Twitter’s Quandary:  The Humpty Dumpty Twitter User and the First Amendment, who was stalked, harassed and threatened from a man in California.  Also ask the 16 year old from Vol. 5 whose stalker, a WoW teammate, drove from Canada to the her U.S. high school to deliver gifts to someone he has never met before and has only had contact with her through a computer game.   Let’s not forget about the New York cop who harassed his ex-girlfriend by assuming her cyber identity to solicit unwanted dates in Vol. 1.

The take away from this blog series is guard your cyber identity because you do not know who may be watching.  Do not give out personal information, check your privacy settings and read the privacy policies for your gadgets and social media sites.  Lastly, check out this public service announcement on cyberstalking, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VYqdNftbJg&feature=related.  Thanks for reading, even the remaining cyberstalkers:)


[1] Please note that I am not taking into account the money you are already paying Internet and cell phone usage.  You would still pay these costs even if you were not involved in social media.

[2] Watch out for child pornography laws, Clever.

[3] The language for the fine is similar to the language proposed in the Do Not Track Online Act of 2011.  See http://commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=85b45cce-63b3-4241-99f1-0bc57c5c1cff

[4] See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HlSUtePyZM for the full story.

[5] Id.

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~ by sjohn7887 on December 1, 2011.

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