CITATION: „Stalking became a hot topic when Netflix released the hit series You. Unfortunately, many people were familiar with the plot all too well before its release. I’ve watched the show and, as someone who is currently being stalked, I could recognize an awful lot in the first season.
While technology has made so many wonderful things possible, I’ve sadly discovered it has also made us all more vulnerable. Stalking and harassing someone has become much easier since the internet and the use of mobile phones became a standard as it can be done more easily, it’s anonymous, and there are hardly any boundaries to it.
What makes this especially sad is that I’ve always been a geek, a gadget lover, a tech freak. My stalker (we’ll call them B) has used the technology I love to make my life a living hell — but I’ve also been consoled by it. However, if there’s one thing that my story should make clear to anyone who reads it, it’s that we need new laws based on our current technological reality to protect victims.
When I started using the internet (the two of us go way back to 1995), I was a naive girl, obsessed with the digital world. This new realm, completely without boundaries and full of possibilities, was my means to escape and join the ‘big’ world out there. I truly believed the web was a positive force and would repair all things wrong with the world…
The internet also rapidly expanded my horizons. I met up with people I got to know online in real life, made new friends, and it kick-started my career.
And yet, years later, I regret it all. I wished I’d never met one person in particular. I feel extra stupid for never using a pseudonym or nickname, putting my real identity online, and for trusting someone with access to most of my personal data and digital accounts for years.
For years now, my phone — like for most people — has been my biggest treasure, connecting me with the whole world, wherever I am. But as you can make out from the title of this piece, my naivety cost me dearly.
A cold day in February marked the start of countless anonymous phone calls. This was quickly followed by B hijacking my email, analytics, social, and website accounts, in addition to creating fake profiles in my name to sabotage me online and spread slander.
Threats, embarrassments, and even blackmail followed and it sometimes took me days to regain access to my accounts. My phone also became completely unusable because of the endless call attempts, which was probably the point, as it robbed me of other connections.
I had never used 2-step authentication at first, always used the same password for everything, and connected my Twitter to every possible channel as it was so easy to use as a login. And it turns out that when you don’t use a pseudonym and your photo is all recognizable over the internet, it’s easy for someone to pretend they are you.
Being reachable via your mobile and social media, and connected 24/7 for both business and private, made it all exponentially worse. I loved my work and had never really considered separating it from my personal life.
Now all the traces I once left on social media were triggers and clues for my stalker to find my whereabouts. The Internet Archive wasn’t of much help either; all the information I had shared online carefree was now being used against me.
The stalking moved offline. Occasionally, I was ambushed at events or places I frequented, places my stalker knew. I was often followed on my way home on Friday nights, or would find B waiting by my door, appearing when I would least expect it.
And when someone has access to your online life too, simply changing your route home isn’t enough.“
END OF CITATION
This is the introduction of a story written by a women who lives in The Netherlands and has become the victim of a stalker for six years. The stalker lives in a different country and exercises digital and physical harassment on the women using information he finds on the internet. You find the complete must-read story, that was published on June 25, 2020 here: https://thenextweb.com/podium/2020/06/25/why-our-laws-cant-protect-me-from-my-digital-stalker/.
You think the likelihood of something like this happening to you is very small? Well, realize that one incident is enough to change your life. A small situation in which you (perhaps unconsciously) upset, hurt or disappointed a potential stalker. And I can assure you that there are many troubled personalities walking around in public – including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, LinkedIn and many other social media networks and internet services.
About 37% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 in the U.S. have been bullied online. 30% have had it happen more than once. 95% of teens in the U.S. are online, and the vast majority access the internet on their mobile device, making it the most common medium for cyber bullying. Source: https://t1p.de/gahq
Be aware, that stalking is carried out not only by private individuals. Since February 2018, I have been receiving one or more phone calls almost daily, mostly from phone numbers in the UK, but also from phone numbers in other foreign countries. The callers claim that I have registered for a trading service and thus automatically given my consent to such promotional calls – which is not true. Attempts to have my phone number blocked by the „Telephone Preference Service“ in the UK for advertising calls failed, because the blocking can only be set up for UK numbers – and that was already the case before Brexit. So I had no choice but to block hundreds of numbers from abroad on my smartphone over the past three years or so, with the risk of accidentally blocking numbers of business partners or friends as well.
Data privacy is often considered as something theoretical, artificial, sometimes even bothersome, which has no practical benefit, because many people believe they have „nothing to hide“. The U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden commented this huge misperception as follows: „Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.“ „When you say, ‚I have nothing to hide,‘ you’re saying, ‚I don’t care about this right.“
That data privacy is not only relevant and important to celebrities, politicians, millionaires, top managers or criminals becomes already clear when we take a look at the „taxonomy of privacy“, which is a structured approach to illustrate the multifold ways your privacy can be violated and abused:
Breaking a promise to keep a person’s information confidential (breach of confidentiality), revealing truthful information about a person that impacts her security or the way others judge her character (disclosure), revealing an individual’s nudity, grief, or bodily functions (exposure), amplifying the accessibility of personal information, threatening to disclose personal information (blackmailing), using an individual’s identity to serve the interests and aims of another (appropriation), disseminating false or misleading information about an individual (distortion), or excluding and individual from information that others have about her e.g. by gossiping or deceiving somebody are just eight out of sixteen possible ways to violate or abuse an individual’s privacy.
The story of the Dutch stalker victim explains vividly what a person affected by digital and physical harassment thinks and feels, the consequences for mental and physical health and how helpless you can be in a situation where an anonymous enemy puts you on a digital pillory and ridicules you in front of the public or even attacks you physically.
Stalkers can easily find a vast amount of information on the Internet for their sneaky attempts to invade other people’s privacy. The following list contains (without claiming to be complete) a selection of 35 categories with Internet services and apps that are used by many tech-savvy people:
If you use 2 to 3 Internet services or apps in each of these 35 categories, you will have 70 to 105 accounts for which user IDs, passwords, e-mail addresses, security questions and possibly other data required by the provider must be managed – and in such a way that they are not accessible to unauthorized third parties including potential stalkers and other criminals.
Digital natives who use Internet services and smartphone apps particularly extensively are likely to quickly end up with something in the order of 200 to 300 accounts. The access data for this unmanageable jumble of more or less important Internet services and apps must be organized and kept up to date in order to protect your privacy from stalkers.
But there is even worse news particularly for those people who use social media platforms intensively because these platforms create an additional threat layer for our privacy. Social media platforms are nothing else than huge engines for targeted, personalized advertising to users. In order to execute their business model, social media platforms perform comprehensive social behavioral control. This means in practice they record each and every single interaction, every click, like, comment, post, share, even the time you spend on reading certain postings in real-time. They analyze this information and use it to keep their users as long as possible on the platform and motivate them to perform as many interactions as possible which serve then again as source for data recording and distribution of advertising. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and Search machines such as Google or Bing are the biggest sources for stalkers where they find the munition for their machinations.
A 3-year-old video under the title „Monologue of the Facebook algorithm: how Facebook turns users data into its profit“ published in January 2018 is probably the most concise and comprehensible description I’ve ever seen on how social media platforms work. Spend just 6 minutes to understand how Facebooks affects your Privacy as well as the one of your family, friends and colleagues. Facebook can be replaced in this video by any other Social Media platform such as Google, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok or LinkedIn.
A high resolution version of the „Facebook Algorithmic Factory“ explained in the video, which allows you to read all the details, can be downloaded on Archive.org in a pdf format.
The following complementary chart was published on January 25, 2019 under the headline „Your digital identity has three layers, and you can only protect one of them“ by Katarzyna Szymielewicz, co-founder of the Panoptykon Foundation:
Citation from the article: „Your online profile is less a reflection of you than a caricature. Whether you like it or not, commercial and public actors tend to trust the string of 1s and 0s that represent you more than the story you tell them. When filing a credit application at a bank or being recruited for a job, your social network, credit-card history, and postal address can be viewed as immutable facts more credible than your opinion.“
Good for those who took care early on to keep their digital footprint as small as possible. Bad for those who didn’t do this.
I would encourage you to read the story of the stalker victim from The Netherlands to the end. It’s important and explains why privacy matters to anyone of us: https://thenextweb.com/podium/2020/06/25/why-our-laws-cant-protect-me-from-my-digital-stalker/.
Stalking and cyber bullying has not only a personal or individual dimension (which is already frightening enough), it has also a societal and systemic dimension (which can have an even bigger impact on our democracy). Hundred years ago, there was no Twitter, no Social Media, nor internet. Even though, Mussolini, Stalin or Hitler managed to gain power. And all three „gentlemen“ could probably hardly believe their luck today, given the countless possibilities to track, intimidate, control and manipulate half of the global population through digital technologies. In my opinion, this is the greatest danger to democracy and society of all: the misuse of data collected by the private FANGMAN data krakens, by their Chinese competitors and by the NSA to bring about systemic change and abolish our democracy through an authoritarian regime (FANGMAN: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Nvidia; NSA: U.S. National Security Agency).
Complementary information can be found in my following blogs published in German language:
▶︎ „Twelve Technology Trends for 2021“ published on January 7, 2021: https://kubraconsult.blog/2021/01/07/zwolf-technologie-trends-fur-2021/
▶︎ „Your Digital Footprint and Internet Security“ published on January 6, 2021: https://kubraconsult.blog/2021/01/06/ihr-digitaler-fusabdruck-und-ihre-sicherheit-im-internet/
▶︎ „Why advertising and social media make us unhappy“ published on January 6, 2021: https://kubraconsult.blog/2021/01/06/warum-uns-werbung-und-soziale-medien-ungluecklich-machen/
▶︎ „Why Tesla is not growing „exponentially““ published on January 4, 2021: https://kubraconsult.blog/2021/01/04/warum-tesla-nicht-exponentiell-wachst/
▶︎ „Mobility tip for real professionals“ published on January 3, 2021: https://kubraconsult.blog/2021/01/03/mobilitaetstipp-fuer-echte-profis/
▶︎ „Bitcoin, Tesla and the Bubble Economy“ published on January 2, 2021: https://kubraconsult.blog/2021/01/02/bitcoin-tesla-und-die-bubble-economy/