August 8, 2017 - Comments Off on How to Keep Yourself from Becoming a Cyberstalking Statistic
The free flow of information created by the internet can be both a blessing and curse. Though we can enjoy unprecedented levels of access to information for purposes such as research, education, activism, corporate oversight and government accountability, there is a real trade-off for this increased knowledge about the world around us. Specifically, our individual privacy and the amount of personal information that is now freely available online for anyone who cares to do a simple search has changed dramatically thanks to the digital revolution.
For many of us, the loss of privacy is merely an annoyance, but for others, it can pose a true threat to safety. The anonymity of cyberspace can give stalkers practically limitless information about their victims. Also, the internet provides another communication channel for these cyberstalkers to harass and intimidate their targets.
Though no one can predict or prevent the behavior that instigates a stalker’s obsession, there are ways you can protect yourself and your online identity to make it harder for anyone to gather personal information about you. Here are some ways you can protect your identity online and keep yourself from becoming a cyberstalking statistic:
Know Your Rights
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), passed by the National Assembly and approved by the Senate in 2016, is a controversial bill that outlines many cybercrimes. It specifically includes cyberstalking and prohibits individuals from attempting to coerce or threaten others through online communications. The penalties are severe if the charges are proven to be correct and can include five years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million rupees.
Offenses can be reported to the authorities who can then trace the sender’s internet address for use in prosecution. Though stalking victims have the law on their side, many are too afraid or embarrassed to seek help from authorities, which makes cyberstalking a seriously under-reported crime around the globe. It’s important to know you have the upper-hand in these situations.
Like many other crimes that target women, cyber harassment tends to be severely under-reported. Some victims don’t think the authorities will take their concerns seriously while others are embarrassed and feel responsible for the behavior of the stalker. Many abusers count on this hesitancy and capitalize on it to further the harassment.
In 2016, DRF launched a Cyber Harassment Helpline to support victims of online abuse. The helpline is staffed by experts including an attorney, cybersecurity experts, and a psychologist, all of whom can help victims understand their rights and empower them to make informed choices about how they can move forward.
If you or someone you know is the victim of a cyberstalker, DRF’s confidential helpline is a great resource. Call the toll-free number: 0800-39393 Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m to speak to a staff member about your situation.
When it comes to cyberstalking, it can be very difficult to monitor all of the information available online about yourself. However, there are some preventative measures you can take to make it more difficult for someone to follow you online.
Proxy Software Service
Using a proxy software service turns your internet activity anonymous, making it much more difficult for anyone to track your browsing history or access your personal data online. Using a service such as this is especially important if you ever access the internet using a public or unsecured WiFi connection. Accessing the internet via any unsecured connection makes your information much more vulnerable to tracking and theft by a third party who is interested in following you.
If you use social media, it’s important to be aware of exactly how much information you’re sharing and with whom you’re sharing it. Check the privacy settings on your accounts regularly and be sure you know everyone who is getting updates about your page. You should also check your mobile phone privacy settings to ensure you aren’t sharing your geographic location through any apps or other services without realizing it. More closely restricting privacy settings is an easy way to ensure a cyberstalker is locked out of many avenues of information.
Set a Google Alert with your name to let you know if anyone else is posting information about you online. If someone is posting private information about you publicly, this service will alert you quickly so that you can get it removed as soon as possible. Staying aware of what information about yourself is public is key to reducing cyberstalking threats.
If you or someone you know is being stalked or threatened on- or offline, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault. Stalking is the result of obsessive behavior, and you are in no way responsible for the actions of anyone stalking you.
This is a guest post by Sandra - a freelance writer. Her areas of expertise include cybersecurity, technology and women’s rights. She is a frequent contributor to The Right Side of Truth.
Published by: Digital Rights Foundation in Blog