Technology-Aided Stalking
With the rising use of and reliance on technology, stalking opportunities have expanded. The use of technology for stalking ranges greatly. Technology-aided stalking is widespread and difficult to control or stop. The National Center for Victims of Crime has said that "States should look at their stalking, cyberstalking, and other related laws to ensure their citizens have the same protection from stalkers who use computer spyware or video cameras as they do from those who physically follow, harass, or threaten them."[1] Below are of the most common methods of technology-aided stalking.
 
Personal Information and Social Media 
Social media can be a helpful social and professional network for its users. However, it can also be a dangerous tool for stalkers to gain and spread information about  victims. The nature of social media is to make connections and share personal information over the Internet. The word “stalking” itself is often associated with and used to describe regular activity on social media sites. In fact, the idea of stalking in the context of social media raises few red flags and is often accepted as appropriate behavior. However, the common use of the term “stalking” in the context of sites like facebook minimizes the act of stalking and the seriousness with which it should be treated. These sites can be extremely dangerous as a stalker can gain a great deal of information about a victim from social media. Basic information such as employment, education, and current city are often readily available to stalkers through social media sites. While social media sites can be useful support networks and can help victims to feel less alone or isolated, the sites also offer enormous amounts of information about a victim to her stalker. Stalkers often use social media sites to see who the victim’s friends are, what activities she participates in, and where she goes. Stalkers can find this information in pictures, event calendars and other common applications.[2] In addition to gaining information about a victim, the web provides stalkers with tools to easily disseminate photos of and information about the victim. In addition, contentcan easily be falsified by a stalker, with negative consequences for the victim. Facebook and the National Network for Ending Domestic Violence (NNEDV) recently collaborated to provide "Privacy & Safety on Facebook: A Guide for Survivors of Abuse". This tool outlines  the safety features available on Facebook. The guide is a good resource for understanding how to make Facebook a safer social media; however, it cannot guarantee complete victim safety.  
 
 If a woman believes she is being stalked, she should remove as much personal information from social media as she can by deleting her accounts and asking friends not to reveal information about her on their accounts. Online databases also offer information that victims may not even know is available to the public. The victim has much less information about and control over these databases than she does over her social media pages.
 
Contacting the Victim Through Technology
Just as stalkers often contact their victims in person, they can also make use of technology to send unwanted emails, phone calls, texts, instant messages and other methods of interaction such as Twitter and Instagram to connect with their victims at an inappropriate and often overwhelming rate. As technology continues to advance, the methods through which stalkers can contact their victims will also increase. Contacting victims inappropriately through technology is largely prevalent in cases of juvenile stalking, often within current or past romantic relationships. Many youths may not recognize this behavior as stalking. See the Dating Violence page of this website for more information on what constitutes inappropriate behavior.
 
A victim should make a record of all unwanted contact. If possible, she should save the contact itself (for example emails, texts, and videos). If it was over the phone/verbal communication, she should write down the time and date of the contact as well as the content of the contact. She should try to be as accurate and complete in this record as possible, even if the message or content is embarrassing. This record can be used as evidence of the stalker’s behavior.
 
Passwords and Invasive Technology
Passwords are used to secure the safety of all commercial and social accounts, memberships, information, communication and other property. A stalker can gain knowledge of a victim’s password in a number of ways. Often, passwords include personal references such as a date or name. This portion of the password can often be guessed, especially with the help of automatic prompts or forgotten password options. To avoid this, victims should choose a strong, not obvious password that cannot easily be guessed. There are websites that will analyze and report the strength of a password. Beyond simply guessing a password, there is technology available that allows password information to be recorded and sent to another person. If installed in a computer, a keystroke logger can record anything that is typed into that computer, including passwords and pins. This information could give a stalker access to the victim’s email, bank accounts, and records of other computer activity. Collecting information of this sort is not only invasive; it is dangerous. If a stalker has advance knowledge of a victim’s intent to escape he could take control over her funds and other resources. This is especially dangerous and likely in the case of a stalker who is a current or former intimate partner of a victim. Another invasive technology with which stalkers gain information about and control over their victims is spyware. Spyware can be installed on phones and computers. Originally, spyware comes from the technology that many employers and parents use to monitor their employees and children. In the hands of a stalker, spyware is dangerous as it allows an abuser access to the victim’s computer or phone activity. Even more invasive is the spyware that allows a stalker to turn on the computer’s webcam and watch the video. Spyware can be installed either as hardware or as software. This means a stalker can either physically add the spyware technology to the victim’s device or do so remotely. A stalker does not need physical access to the victim’s computer or phone to monitor its activity.[3]
 
If a victim realizes that her stalker suddenly has extensive control over her online activity or has advance knowledge of her plans, she should consider using public computers (such as found in libraries, schools, workplaces and more) to create new email and other accounts, which do not include her name and use a different password than the one known to her stalker. She should also use a public computer when she researches, finds, and contacts help. If she is making any plans to escape, they should be done on the public computer. Attempting to remove the invasive technology could notify the stalker of both the victim’s knowledge of the spyware and her intention to remove it. Beyond simply relaying the victim’s actions to her stalker, removing the invasive technology could trigger a negative reaction from the abuser. If the victim wants to preserve the invasive technology as evidence against her stalker, she should bring the tampered-with device to law enforcement without attempting to remove it.[4]
 
Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
GPS features are increasingly common in cell phones and other portable devices. While this feature allows the phone’s owner to find maps, directions, and even their lost phones, this feature also poses an enormous danger to women who are being stalked. As a cell phone is commonly with its owner, the GPS feature can reveal where the owner of the phone is. If linked to social media programs, the GPS can “check in” wherever the user takes the phone. This can reveal the victim’s location to her stalker. Another use of the GPS feature in cell phones is linked to the service providers themselves. Often companies will offer ways to find a lost phone through GPS. This can also help a stalker locate a victim without the victim’s knowledge, especially if the stalker and victim are current or former intimate partners.[5][6] The GPS features in all devices should be turned off as soon as a woman believes that she is being stalked. Beyond the preinstalled GPS features in phones, new technology is making GPS devices much more accessible for the public to purchase. Designed as a safety mechanism to keep track of older relatives and teen drivers, new GPS technology allows a person to attach the GPS device to a car to keep track of the driver. This technology is dangerous in the hands of a stalker and increases the ease with which the victim can be followed and tracked. There are laws protecting victims from having devices put on their cars. However, if the victim drives her abuser’s car, it is not illegal for a stalker to use GPS on their own car. [7]


[1] National Center for Victims of Crime: Stalking Resource Center. “Stalking Technology Outpaces State Laws.” Last Updated 2003. http://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/src/stalking-technology-outpaces-state-laws17A308005D0C.pdf?sfvrsn=2.
[2] Tropping, Alexandra. “Social Networking Sites Fuelling Stalking, Report Warns." The Guardian. February 1, 2012, Accessed June 17, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/feb/01/social-media-smartphones-stalking.
[3] NNEDV. “Who’s Spying On Your Computer? Spyware, Surveillance, and Safety for Survivors.” Last modified in 2008. http://nnedv.org/downloads/SafetyNet/NNEDV_SpyWareAndSafety_English.pdf.
[4] NNEDV. “Who’s Spying On Your Computer? Spyware, Surveillance, and Safety for Survivors.”
[5] Grayson, Julianne. “Cyberstalking.” Crime Victim Center of Erie County. http://www.cvcerie.org/additional-resources/cyberstalking/.
[6]Scheck, Justin. “Stalkers Exploit Cellphone GPS.” The Wall Street Journal. August 4, 2010. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703467304575383522318244234.html.
[7] Eckholm, Erik. “Private Snoops Find GPS Trail Legal to Follow.” The New York Times. January 28, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/us/gps-devices-are-being-used-to-track-cars-and-errant-spouses.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.