Cyber-Stalking: Is it a Joke or a Serious Issue?

Posted on November 28, 2011 by

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Advances in technology, where social media is concerned, have allowed us the opportunity to connect with relatives and friends across the world. We can send emails to a long-lost relative in Norway, hook up with old highschool pals for a night on the town, and even temporarily assume the identity of our favorite celebrity, if we are so inclined.  A recent, unofficial, poll (of a few of my friends) has revealed that the one technological innovation people are most grateful for is Facebook (FB). Facebook is now like their cell phone, they can’t live a day without logging on.

I Googled Facebook’s Statistics page and discovered that over 800 million people are “actively” using Facebook. The word actively is defined in the dictionary as being “characterized by action rather than by contemplation or speculation.”  800 million active users.  It’s sheer genius!  What FB has managed to do is train the muscle memory of 800 million human beings to compulsively access FB without contemplation or speculation.  Are any of you guilty?  I know I am.

An article by SocialMediaDefined.com says (about FB):

“You will be astonished at the amount of information passing through this system with such minimal effort, Facebook truly is the great communicator. Once you’ve set up your profile there are a host of random applications you can add to it, some are meaningless and just for fun, others have actual functionality. For instance, you can add a carpool application to your profile that alerts you to others seeking a ride through your specified area.

You may choose to join groups on Facebook, there are groups for just about anything. The group is just a place where people can become “members” of something they have similar interest around. For example, there are groups for cities, membership organizations, causes, etc. You can create your own group in seconds and upload any photos, videos or otherwise that may be of interest to people that join your group.”

Most of this does not come as a surprise to avid Facebook users.  Indeed, there are a lot of great aspects of Facebook that allow us to stay connected.  However, like most things in this world, for every “pro” there is usually a respective “con”.  How connected is too connected?  How much of your private life is available for anyone to view?  One of the biggest issues with Facebook is the fact that the site allows virtually anyone to track another person’s status, whereabouts (the ever-dreaded “Check-ins”) and personal information.  This is, sometimes jokingly, referred to as Facebook stalking.

Recently, a friend of mine shared an app (called Take This Lollipop) on my profile that made me rethink and remain conscious of what I’m putting out there. You can view the video below to get a feel for what is going on.

Basically, when you “allow” this app, your personal information is linked in with the sequence of this video. Current pictures from your profile come up on the screen in front of this crazy, dirt-ball of a man. He pulls up your whereabouts on Google maps and for the rest of the video you see this man obsessing over finding you. It’s a little creepy but definitely serves it’s purpose as a bit of a wakeup call to what people put on their profiles and how much of that is made available to the average user.

Cyber-stalking isn’t limited to Facebook or any other form of social media.  Per CNN, malls in Virginia and Southern California now have the ability to track the cellphones of their customers beginning Black Friday and it has been said that it will continue through the holiday season! The system is not designed to obtain any personal information, it can only track (in order) the stores that a particular customer visits on the property. The malls in these areas have sugar-coated the stalking bit by labeling it as a “survey”.  Customers are able to opt out by simply turning off their phones.  Ridiculous.  If stalking is this easy for retailers to perform, imagine the possibilities for FB-stalking.

Facebook is an awesome tool we can use to remain digitally linked with others.  Is cyber-stalking a serious issue?  I think it depends on the circumstances, but I urge you Facebook users out there to use the site at your own discretion and remain vigilant and conscious of what you’re putting on your profile (especially where the “Check-ins” are concerned). You never know who’s watching.

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