Stalking with technology involves the use of a wide array of technologies to stalk victims. Cyber-stalking, defined as “threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the internet and other forms of online and computer communications”(Kilmartin & Allison, 2007), and “the repeated use of the internet, e-mail, or related digital electronic communication devices to annoy, alarm, or threaten a specific individual or group of individuals”(Kilmartin & Allison, 2007 (pg. 29)), is the most commonly researched form of stalking with technology. Cyber-stalking also includes the use of spyware to monitor a victim’s computer use. Online databases prove problematic for victims because many public records, such as housing location and tax information, can allow a stalker access to a victim’s personal information. In many states, the removal of this information is allowed only for the personal records of peace officers and other public officials (Southworth, Finn, Dawson, Fraser, & Tucker, 2007). A 2009 BJS survey also found that of its participants, “[m]ore than 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking was used”(Baum, Catalano, & Rand, 2009).
- Small camera technologies enable a stalker to survey a victim’s activities and guests, to ascertain a victim’s current location, and to enable more sophisticated acts of peeping, among other uses. Footage may also be used to gather information to insult, intimidate, and harass victims.
- Global positioning systems (GPS) are used by stalkers to monitor victim movement by the placement of a device in cars, purses, or other personal belongings. This enables stalkers to surprise victims by showing up without announcement. You may not be aware that these devices are being used. They can be small and well hidden.
- Faxes: Though not used as widely now as they once were. Many official businesses may still require this option. When faxes are sent, they are often imprinted with identifiable or traceable information about where the fax originated. Faxes can provide stalkers information to locate you in safe housing, lawyers’ offices, or on a new job.
- Social Media. Stalkers often utilize social media sites to gain knowledge about the daily habits of their victims. They may have access to specific locations if you have the GPS activated on the sites when uploading pictures or giving specific status updates. In dating/former dating relationships it may be likely that you have shared a password with your stalker. If so, change the password or discontinue use of that site.
- Telephones equipped with caller-ID have provided stalkers with information about victim’s work or home location. Cordless (land based) phones are easily intercepted by baby monitors, walkietalkies, and other cordless phones, compromising personal discussions and safety planning. Cellular telephones can also be intercepted. Cell phones also allow a stalker to send unwanted text and picture messages to a victim. And often times Smartphones have GPS enabled as a default. This can give your stalker access to your locations. Additionally, printed and online cell phone billing records show one’s entire call log, making that information available to a stalker.
- Chat Room. Even if you are not using a chat room, your stalker can use this forum to have others contact you for them, keep track of your movements, etc.
- Instant Messages (IM). Similar to chat rooms but it is one-to-one communication.
- Internet Service Provider (ISP). The host from which one gains the Internet connection and ability. Most colleges and universities provide Internet services for their students. Some students also choose to acquire a private host. If your stalker has access to your computer they can easily check your activity to monitor your daily activities.
- Spam. A message sent many times via email and posted to newsgroups. When receiving it through email, the person’s name is usually not in the TO: line. The return address is usually forged or fake. There are websites that stalkers can access to send you unidentifiable emails.
While technologies can offer protection for victims (for example, the ability to call 911 from anywhere with a cellular phone), it is important to note the potential danger of these technologies when employed by a stalker.