July 23, 2010

Stalkers enjoy cool new tools to pursue their prey

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:41

Leo Hickman finds that Foursquare is a very handy tool to track down your cyberobsession in the real world:

Louise has straight, auburn hair and, judging by the only photograph I have of her, she’s in her 30s. She works in recruitment. I also know which train station she uses regularly, what supermarket she shopped at last night and where she met her friends for a meal in her home town last week. At this moment, she is somewhere inside the pub in front of me meeting with colleagues after work.

Louise is a complete stranger. Until 10 minutes ago when I discovered she was located within a mile of me, I didn’t even know of her existence. But equipped only with a smartphone and an increasingly popular social networking application called Foursquare, I have located her to within just a few square metres, accessed her Twitter account and conducted multiple cross-referenced Google searches using the personal details I have already managed to accrue about her from her online presence. In the short time it has taken me to walk to this pub in central London, I probably know more about her than if I’d spent an hour talking to her face-to-face. She doesn’t know it yet, but Louise is about to meet her new digital stalker.

Privacy and expectations thereof are becoming less and less realistic, but even knowing that, the merging of social media and geo-location services gives me the creeps.

I was an early user of Facebook (once it was opened to non-students) and LinkedIn and have been getting great use out of Twitter lately, but it seems like every day there’s a new social media platform being touted as the best ever. Social media is like any other form of networking: the value increases as the number of nodes goes up. The next boom in convergence will probably be cross-network liaison tools.

Update: Shea Sylvia finds the attention of a cyberstalker very unwelcome.

1 Comment

  1. Well, it’s a shame that Shea Sylvia had a bad experience. I don’t want to be one to blame the victim, but I’m tired of idiot savants thinking that what happens online doesn’t carry any consequences with it, and that teh intarwebs are a magical place where unicorns frolic and there’s no sadness.

    Everything we do in any aspect of our lives—whether it’s at home, the office, the grocery store, online, at your grandma’s house—has consequences. Even unintended ones. And they won’t always be fair or happy or nice. What practical reason would anyone want to broadcast their location 24/7 to the entire planet? People just don’t think before they use these capabilities. They don’t imagine what would happen if the wrong person (an ex, a socially awkward moron, or a homicidal maniac) gets to look inside their world, too.

    So yeah. What happened to Shea Sylvia sucks, a lot. You know what sucks more? Being an adult and not having the skills to evaluate the pros and cons of a scenario before you leap in. In the olden days, the Romans used to leave people like that to perish on windswept crags.

    Comment by Chris Taylor — July 24, 2010 @ 04:09

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