Being stalked by some stranger. Leaving an online trail of destruction amongst your friends and family. Inviting other strangers to your home pretending to be you? Only after 3 1/2 years to be revealed to be your most trusted confidant and potential life partner?
You have to feel for Ruth Jeffery. Although her relationship with Shane Webber sounds terribly one side (NB we have not heard his side of that) there is a circle of family and friends and we explicitly trust everyone therein.
The distribution of such personal material as described in this case, spread over so many years , led the victim to believe she was being closely stalked by some unknown assailant.
The identity theft used in this case shows the lengths some will go to for such petty purposes. Revenge or misplaced/overpowering affection appears to be the motivation here.
Who we are
Online it is so much simpler to pretend to be someone else. You don’t need to prove identity on any of the social networks and so ‘mirror’ accounts are simple.
Access to ones personal details is trickier in order to fool friends and family. This alone should have raised alarms that the real stalker was closer to home.
The insider is always the biggest risk. Whether an individual or a corporation you must trust people with access and details of your life/processes etc. Should we all then be paranoid?
I don’t think so
One think you can do is trace and report any abuse. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. even dating sites, all rely on their reputation. A such they will take illegal activity or harassment seriously.
But it must be reported first. If they aren’t informed there is little reason to check. Some explicit imagery can be detected, as can foul language but these are peripheral and a 10 year old (if it were allowed a Facebook account) could figure out quickly enough how to get round those.
Below (References) are some of the ways known or suspected abuse can be reported.
Of course you need to know that there is an account at all to do this.
Now, tricky. I am not going to insist that you don’t enjoy life. Far be it for me, well beyond my ‘dangerous’ (not) ‘youth’, to advise you on what you should and should not do – within the law.
But be aware what the distributions and trusts that are set up in your life are. For example:
Yes, you have no problem with you boyfriend having ‘personal’ photos of you but be prepared: they are not yours once you have given them. They are his.
And think before you post anything. Anywhere.
Tweets are next to instantaneous and almost impossible to revoke. On a lot of mobile phones they even tag you current location to every message.
Shared Facebook data stays with those you shared it with and they can disseminate it as they wish.
Perhaps Facebook, Twitter etc. need far better proof of identity before allowing new accounts? But that isn’t part of the working model on these services. They rely on the openness of the platform to allow new accounts quickly, easily. How else do you get 500,000,000 users?
Perhaps they can let you sign up to an identity protection programme? Notify you if a similar identity is registered with them?
There are third party providers that will do this for you, at a price. They also, as a result make some common life tasks trickier for you as you will nee to prove your identity far more often.
The recent PSN identity escape issue brought those up closer to the public consciousness as they offered short term free accounts as part of their ‘Welcome Back’ pack.
Please note all potential stalkers: you will leave an IT trail, you will be traced, you will be convicted.
Shane Webber pleaded guilt to causing harassment, alarm or distress.
Guardian: Online Stalker
Social Network Helpline (commercial service)
Facebook: Abuse Reporting
Twitter: Reporting a Violation
.Gov.UK Identity Protection
Identity Theft .Org
Identity Theft Protection .Org
Allclear ID protection (commercial service)
Affinion Fraud Protection (commercial service)
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