Advice for Stalking Victims using Facebook
Facebook is no longer a private social media platform.
Today, it encourage users to share their information not only to friends but friends of friends and others. It brings Facebook into the arena as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
The difference is that Facebook users started with users being able to share information privately. People often don't realise how much it has changed and how much more open your profile and information is today than it was just a few years ago.
At the end of 2012, and again at the beginning of 2013, Facebook made significant changes to their system that further eroded what privacy and protection they provided to users.
- They took away the option that allowed you remove yourself from public search. This means that anyone on Facebook or indeed Google can do a search for you.
- They now allow anyone to send a message to any Facebook user. You don't have to be connected/friends with them.
- They introduced a new "poke" application that allows users to send anyone a message that self-deletes after a specified number of seconds.
The most dangerous new feature Facebook introduced is their new search engine called "Facebook Graph". This new search engine allows you to search all Facebook users, based on information in their profile.
- Looking for a widower in Windsor?
- Want a list of fans of One Directions that live near you?
- Would you like to see a list of people that work for your local police force?
Once you find someone you are interested in, you can send them a message, follow their public posts or send a friend invitation.
The Facebook Graph has powerful people search capabilities - it can such or anything within your profile including friends, about you etc.
It isn't just the new features that put people at risk. There are many reasons why Facebook is an issue for stalking victims.
- A stalker is a bit like a gambler - every time they get a "win" it spurs them on. When it comes to a stalker a "win" is new information, a feeling of power and control from knowing everything about their victim, being able to manipulate the victim or friends and family, frightening or humiliating them, obsessing over all the information they've gathered. Every piece of new information feeds their obsession, makes them feel more powerful and encourages them to go further.
- Something a victim puts on Facebook can act as a trigger. We have had women murdered in the UK for changing their status from "married" to "single" or after posting a picture of a new partner.
- Your timeline provides a history of your online activity, and for many it goes back years. It gives a stalker a central source of information about you -a list of friends and family, who are close, pictures, what you like and dislike, your routine, where you work, who you've dated, your opinions etc. If you want to get to know about a person's life Facebook will provide enormous amount of information all in one place.
- Facebook allows stalkers not just monitor the victim, but all those around the victim as well. A posting that says "I'm meeting
Jane for drinks tonight at the Swan" tells the stalker many things:
- He knows Jane will be at the Swan. He can go watch her, spike her drink, and follow her home.
- Jane will not be at home so the stalker can break into her home and send her a message by moving or stealing something, install listening devices or just wait for her.
- Jane will be coming home having had a few drinks. He can wait for her, it will be easier to overpower her.
Deactivate your Facebook account until the stalking has stopped.
However, if you feel that by deactivating your Facebook account that you would be too isolated, I recommend the following:
Use a mobile social networking app such as Whatsapp. They are safer, but not completely safe because there are still risks with any social network. You will also find that mobile social network tend to work better than the Facebook mobile app. It allows you to have a list of friends that you can chat to in real time, share pictures or videos. It doesn't use up your text allowance. Of course you still need to be careful, who you add and what you say but it doesn't create a timeline the way that Facebook does. They don't create an extensive amount of public information.
Change the way you use Facebook. Think of it more like a TV channel. Watch what people post but don't put anything on your timeline. Instead use the one to one messaging. That way you can still keep up with everyone but not make your information available for everyone to see and not add to your time line.
Profile - most people will change privacy and security settings thinking that will protect their information, but it doesn't. In order to secure your information you have to go into your profile and change each section/entry. But think carefully about what you have on your profile. Do your friends need to know where you live, work, see old pictures etc. Don't they already know these things about you? A profile really is for people who don't know you including odd, mentally ill, financial and sexual predators. There are better and safer ways to meet new people!
Untag photos - if a friend tags you in photos you may want to untag yourself so the abuser doesn't isn't able to find the under your name. Or if someone puts up an embarrassing photo you may also want to untag your name.
Block the abuser - Some victims don't want to block the abuser because they feel better knowing what he is up to. That simply isn't true. The abuser knows you are following and watching him on Facebook. They will only put things on there he wants you to read. It may or may not be true. But what is true is that following your abuser is a way that he can continue to communicate and manipulate you - so block him.