The Social Networker

by Chris Miller at 12:30:00 PM on Thursday, September 18th, 2008
It has been a couple months since I had a VGS posting in the series, but this one was quite due.  Social Stalking is becoming a reality.  The ability to watch and learn infinite information about people without them really knowing you are watching is a scary thought.  I used to revel in the ease of usage at sites like Spokeo, that I even interviewed in this podcast.  Creating Imaginary Friends in FriendFeed is a highlight of the software.  All of this opens the door to Social Stalking.

How does Social Stalking work?  It begins with someone that gets so over zealous with knowing everything you do, every post you make and every thought you have, they first try to join every network you are on.  From there they attempt to be your friend.  If there is no meaningful dialog ensuing between you, you naturally raise an eyebrow.  When they show up unexpectedly at a coffee shop that you sent via Twitter, Brightkite, Dopplr, Plazes or FireEagle, they step over any boundary set.  It quickly escalates as Louis Gray found out by getting constant phone calls, emails and other communication from someone.  I am taking all of this past your point of reason.  There is ways to glean personal information from most of these networks without the person every knowing it.

But who is to blame?
1.        You are first to blame for not securing your information.  Next for even directly sharing all your information to anyone that wants to look
2.        The stalker themselves fall right after yourself since they are the ones in pursuit.  If they are spending the time to track your every move and thought, there is a much larger and looming issue than simple privacy
3.        The software is not to blame under any circumstance in this list.  It only posts what you provide and shares how you have enabled security

After some analyzing of the sites themselves that offer the services, none have a policy in place to address this concern.  Most stand aside from offering such a service to not get themselves in the line of fire of editing or user mediation.  I will say that many sites have cyber-bullying rules, but it stops there.  Simply following someone is not part of bullying.

I have a first line of attack in mind that is taking quick shape.

P.S. (Oct 21 2008) there is a great feedback posting you can find right here by Erin McMahon

  • 1) Virtual Gratification Syndrome (VGS) - Social Stalking
    Created by Erin McMahon at 09/20/2008 4:39:09 PM email | website

    As for the blame, Chris, I have to disagree. Saying that you, the user, are the first to blame before the stalker is pretty backward. If you are stalked, regardless of how careless you may have been with your information, you are not to blame for someone else's inappropriate behavior.

    I agree that there is an onus on users to be responsible and protective of their information to a certain degree, but we shouldn't be creating the expectation that everyone better lock up their stuff nice and tight or else stalking is fair game (not what you said, I know, but hopefully the point is clear).

    The blame for inappropriate behavior is first and foremost on the person behaving poorly. There are things we can do to protect ourselves from bad behavior, but failing to do them doesn't mean that we are to blame for the behavior.

  • 2) re: Virtual Gratification Syndrome (VGS) - Social Stalking
    Created by Chris Miller at 09/23/2008 3:06:01 PM email | website

    @Erin - Thanks, sorry your original comment got refused, they are fixing that for me (as in my IdoNotes blog had the same issue).

    Well I tend to disagree on some of that. While we would love to have an open dialog and everyone will behave, it just isn't possible. So providing either secured (to trusted friends) or limited info (such as not exact locations) is required. Sounds like we could have a conversation on this.

  • 3) Virtual Gratification Syndrome (VGS) - Social Stalking
    Created by Giannii at 09/24/2008 10:59:43 AM email | website

    Interesting.. hmm.

Discussion for this entry is now closed. Please email me instead

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