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When the Web Knows Too Much: Cyberstalking
by Allison Casey

With Facebook and MySpace status updates, mobile tweets, blogs and IM away messages, the Internet makes it easy to stay in touch. But what happens when staying in touch goes too far?With the increased activity on the Internet, cyberstalking is become more and more of a problem. It’s easy, it’s mostly anonymous, it’s hard to catch, and even harder to prosecute.

CyberAngels.org, a Web site dedicated to promoting online security, defines cyberstalking as the use of the Internet, email or other electronic communications device to stalk or harass a person with repeated threatening behavior.

The first cyberstalking law went into effect in California in 1999. In 2003, Florida also followed suit. Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Alaska, Florida, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Missouri have adapted electronic stalking statues. However, due to the anonymous nature of the Internet, cyberstalking is incredibly difficult to prosecute.

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim, remove any overly personal information from your Facebook and MySpace profiles. Do not include information like the apartment complex where you live, your residence hall room number or your phone number or put this information on private settings for only friends you personally know. Create gender-neutral screen names and e-mail addresses and passwords that will not be easy to crack.

Keep digital and print copies of any e-mails, messages, IM conversations or threatening status updates or tweets. You can capture a screen image on a Mac by selecting “command,apostrophe “shiftapostrophe and “4? simultaneously. The image will copy to your desktop. On a PC, select the “PrtScnapostrophe button on your keyboard, open an image editing program (like MS Paint, which comes standard on Windows) and select “paste.apostrophe By capturing the screen rather than just printing off the document directly, you can maintain context for the threat and keep a digital copy just in case. Turn on IM logging and if you are able, identify the stalkers’ Internet Service Provider (ISP) and file a complaint. File a complaint with your ISP as well. Contact your local law enforcement agency and turn in any documentation you have. Even if your case cannot be prosecuted, create a paper trail for future problems.

If you feel you are being cyberstalked, either anonymously or by someone you know, do not be afraid to make a scene. Always remember that anytime you feel threatened in any way, it is absolutely, one hundred percent okay to seek attention and help. Your safety is always the most important thing. Even if the cyberstalking does not enter the “real world,apostrophe it is still dangerous if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Article courtesy of http://www.chickspeak.com/.

About the author:

Allison Casey is graduating in a week from Appalachian State University and hopes one day to run a literacy initiative for a non-profit, and loves cupcakes.

Photo by Rachel Noel. She can be reached at noelra@appstate.edu.