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Info4 Security: Home Office "Online stalking victims must be protected"

Home Office: "Online stalking victims must be protected"

Info 4 Security reports:

03 Feb 12

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone - whose remit also includes the Security Industry Authority - has welcomed a new guide to help stalking victims stay safe online.

National domestic violence charity Women’s Aid and national stalking charity Network for Surviving Stalking have launched a practical guide for victims of stalking.

Digital stalking: a guide to technology risks for victims is an important resource for all stalking victims. It explains the wide range of technological risks for those being stalked, including use of Spyware on personal computers, tracking devices on mobile phones and tracking of information through social networking sites.

With over 18% of women and 9% of men experiencing stalking since the age of 16, stalking affects a wide range of people. However, stalking by ex-partners accounts for the largest group of victims and women are most at risk from physical assault and fatal harm.

The guidelines, which are funded by the Nominet Trust and Avon Cosmetics, contain practical advice on how to reduce the risk of being stalked online. They can also be used for training organisations which deal with stalking and domestic violence cases, including the police and other key agencies.

Technology companies to the rescue

Author of the report and cyber-stalking expert Jennifer Perry said: “Geo-location services that use GPS are the perfect tool for a stalker. Once he has access to a victim’s phone or computer he can watch, listen and follow her wherever she goes – these products are also extremely cheap to buy.”

Women’s Aid CEO Nicola Harwin CBE explained: “Stalking is a frequent aspect of domestic violence, and it's frightening how easy it can be to do this through technology. Getting access to a partner’s phone or computer, and installing applications without their knowledge, can happen quickly and provide the abuser with substantial information. This guide provides important information that can help increase safety. If an abuser can track his ex-partner, even after she has left the relationship, she will be at an increased risk of violence.”

Network for Surviving Stalking chief executive Alexis Bowater stated: “We’re calling on technology companies to consider the safety of stalking and domestic violence victims when designing their products. Technology is here to stay and it can be a very useful tool. We think the companies could make their products even better by factoring in safety features.”

Support from the Home Office

Speaking at the official launch of the new guide, equalities minister Lynne Featherstone outlined the Government's guiding principles for tackling violence against women and girls and welcomed the new guide as an important resource for stalking victims.

Featherstone said: "The effect of stalking on victims' lives can be devastating, and we are actively looking at what more can be done to protect victims and ensure perpetrators are prosecuted. I welcome this practical guide as an example of the valuable work a number of charities are doing to provide information and support to stalking victims."

Stalking is a crime that affects almost one-in-five women and one-in-ten men over a lifetime.

The Government's stalking consultation closes this week, so if you haven’t already given your views on how best to tackle this crime and provide protection for victims, please contribute.

“Technology must be safer” warns stalking and domestic violence charities

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