How do I know if I have a cyberstalker?

A lot of people out there seem to be creeped out at the thought that they might have a stalker following their online activities. They want to know who is viewing their profiles, looking at their photos, reading their status updates and how often.

On Facebook, there have been many applications advertised to let you find this information and all of them are fakes. It’s a good thing, too. These applications may satisfy your curiosity, but they treat all of the friends that you added to your profile as potential stalkers. Even if it were possible to find a Facebook application that reveals your profile views, by using that application to find stalkers you would become the very thing that you were trying to avoid. You’d be stalking your friends’ online activities and snooping on actions that they believed were their own, private actions.

Recently, professional site LinkedIn have removed anonymity from profile views, based on a user setting. MySpace have a similar feature: if you want to see who views your profile, you must let them see your activity. If you consider how frequently Facebook is changed, it seems that there is every chance that Facebook will add the same feature in the future. Facebook also have a disturbing policy of enabling new settings by default. It hasn’t happened yet, but it is a reason to be vigilant. If you want to sacrifice your privacy in order to satisfy your curiosity it should be your choice and the choice of those who do not want to sacrifice their privacy should be respected as well.

So, do you have a stalker?

The first thing to get clear in a discussion about stalking is what stalking actually is. That way we can avoid persecuting and humiliating innocent people with the reputation-damaging label “stalker”.

A stalker is not someone who views your social profiles. It is not someone who views your page a lot. It is not someone who views your photos and it is not even someone who downloads them. None of these activities automatically make someone a stalker.

If you are really being stalked it is a serious matter. It is illegal in at least some countries, as a form of threat and harassment.

The US legal definition states that not only do you have to be followed, but it is “with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm” (I suggest you read the whole definition here).

Cyber stalking also involves high levels of harassment, distress and the intent to track down and meet a person in the physical world. To reduce the chance that someone can trace you in the physical world you can read our guides on using location-based Facebook and how to use Twitter safely.

I have to suggest that before you accuse someone of being a stalker you should think very carefully. Are you really under threat of death or injury just because someone views your photos online? Photos that you published yourself? Because when you put things online, your social profiles, your location, your pictures, your thoughts, your job description, you are publishing it.

If you are reading this and you do have a real stalker, if you are living in fear of physical harm, then contact local law enforcement.

Now that I have that warning out of the way, I can give you some practical tips in case you are curious about how much your profiles are getting viewed. I know that a lot of people have encountered this blog by searching for ways to discover so-called stalkers or to find out how to track people online better. I know because I can see how searchers came to this site. Yes, I can see that.

If you look around you can find there are several sites and services that give you viewing statistics. I already mentioned the features in MySpace and LinkedIn, which allow you to see the details of your viewers so long as you are willing to reveal your details to them. That’s a nice way to do it.

Blogging sites offer statistical views of how many views you have for each post and where the posts have been linked. This is still somewhat anonymous, but that should be fine. It is still a lot of information.

YouTube even have a little statistics area that can be opened up from underneath each video that tells you the age, gender and country of the video’s viewers and which link or search brought them to the video.

Facebook? The best advice I can give you is this: Why don’t you just ask?

Ask your friends and they might even tell you. You can also use common sense: Find out who comments most often and who ‘likes’ the most photos and status updates; the chances are that they view your profile the most often and that they are also very active Facebook users.

Of course, going through your Facebook Friends’ list and removing anyone you do not trust personally is always a good idea.

Here on Safe and Savvy we have a lot of posts related to online privacy. If you are still curious then take a look at our archives and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

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Facebook Phone Number

Why Does Facebook Want My Phone Number?

Facebook has become the most popular social network in the history of known universe for a pretty simple reason: It appeals to our egos. Our egos love to be connected, recognized and comforted. But those needs are generally tiny compared to our desire to be flattered. And one way Facebook continually flatters us is by asking for our phone number -- continually. Like all the time. But like any stranger seeking your digits, the site may have ulterior motives. Ask Facebook, "Why am I being asked to add my phone number to my account?" and its help page will tell you this: Adding your phone number to your account will help keep your account secure, make it easier for you to connect with friends and family on Facebook and make it easier to regain access to your account if you have trouble logging in. That's true. But are there other reason that it might want this piece of information -- reasons that appeal directly to Facebook's bottom line? Almost certainly. In fact, the business case for getting your phone number may be so strong that it's likely at least part of the reason for the change in terms and conditions for WhatsApp, which is owned by the technology giant. So what does Facebook get when it gets your phone number? Potentially lots and lots of information about you -- possibly even your favorite breakfast cereal. Watch our chief research office Mikko Hypponen break down what the data scientists that help social networks sell ads learn about you from your number. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbF0sVdOjRw?rel=0&start=762&end=&autoplay=0] Even if you don't mind being marketed at with ruthless efficiency, there may be other ways Facebook could use your number that you might want to consider. You might have heard about the therapist who began seeing her patients pop in Facebook's "People You May Know" module. How did this happen? Fusion's Kashmir Hill suggests that "an algorithm analyzing this network of phone contacts might reasonably assume all these people are connected." And in this case the therapist didn't even remember giving her number to the site, but she had. If you're logged in, you can check if Facebook has your number here. This still could be some value to you in handing over your number. Two-factor authentication is generally a smart strategy for any account you want to protect -- and you need to offer your smartphone number to access the SMS messages you'll need to use. But remember: If you make your number available on Facebook, people can find you by searching it. So if you do use Facebook's two-factor authentication, you should consider hiding your phone number for anyone but yourself. To do this, go to your profile page, click "About" under your cover image and then in the left column click on "Contact and Basic Info". Next to your mobile number, click "Edit" and select "Only Me". This will make sure strangers won't find your number through your profile or vice versa. But it won't stop Facebook from knowing what your favorite breakfast cereal is. {Image by HighwaysEngland | Flickr]

September 9, 2016
BY 
Christine Bejerasco

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