I picked up a couple of Facebook stalkers over the last couple of weeks
and have been debating how to handle it. Cyber stalking is not a new
thing; it has been going on for a very long time and resulted in broken
lives, hurt people, and people who retreat back into their non-internet
ways. What makes this interesting is not that Facebook facilitates
stalking – but that even middle aged guys can be stalked by people. So here is what I am doing about it.
I devoted a lot of time in my book about people who were run off the internet
and an entire chapter on Kathy Sierra, probably the most famous person
to be cyber stalked including death threats over the last couple of
years. Unfortunately it is impossible for me to leave the internet,
this is how I make my living, and this is where I work and play. The
internet is such an important part of my life that I just simply will
not let a couple of folks run me off. So step number one is much like
Winston Churchill, never surrender speech, the internet is too much of
a fabric for me to hang my hat on to give it up.
The never surrender concept then requires that I take some actions;
many of those were put in place over the weekend, and will continue
through this week.
First thing – get educated – while this is not my first round of
someone doing very weird things – this is the first time that it has
gone into Facebook and other social channels. I want to know more about
the psychology of the person who is engaging in the behavior and what I
can do to protect myself. There is a great article in the Crime Library over on Tru.TV
(surprisingly enough, they have an awesome section on Cyber stalking
and other stalking behaviors on the site, so good for Tru.TV).
I don’t want to overtly tip my hand that there is anything wrong,
and even though I am writing this blog entry it is unlikely that my
stalkers will equate this blog entry to them. While my case is not the
traditional type of cyber stalking – there have been nothing that I
would consider a direct threat at this point, more of an obsession
issue where people are getting angry because I am not at their beck and
call. The problem is that the increasingly strident part of their
communication and their feelings of abandonment are starting to be
noticeable. The good part is that they are fixated on Facebook; they
seem to forget that there are many other places to go. I have also
never friended them on Facebook so that gives me a bit of leeway in
managing the problem.
Facebook privacy settings – turned off access to everyone to just
my friends. And then did nothing else with it. Since I have not made
them my friends – restricting access seemed like a very good start to
all this and it can be done easily in Facebook privacy settings. While
there is a lot of controversy around Facebook Privacy and how it works
– this is at least a good start. If you have made your stalker your
friend – then here is option number two which I am also doing.
I am seeing more and more people going into the public/private
Facebook club. They have a public Facebook account that they use to
send their own messages that align with their public persona. This is
the link that they give out to everyone if someone wants to see their
Facebook page. Human Resources, bosses, and people you don’t really
know personally but need to know professionally, and otherwise go here.
Then they have a smaller private profile filled with people they really
do care about. People like Bosses, HR, and others don’t really belong
here; rather this is where you show off your more personal side. I now
have a public and a private profile – I spend time in my private
profile and do not intend on doing much with my public profile other
than make sure that nothing odd is going on with it, or that people are
not doing odd things on my wall.
Google Search – I have also made an alert on my name – if it shows
up in Google – then I will know about it. Many companies do this to see
what conversations are happening around their brand, there is no reason
that a person cannot do the same thing. If you know what is being said,
then there is a very good chance you can at least know about it. The
premise is that if Google knows, then it can at least inform you that
something is going on. This is also a way of gathering information
about intent; if they start getting angry you will know about it
because their goal is going to be to talk about you online.
Twitter and other social searches – I use Tweetdeck a lot, but this
same concept will work in Seismic just as well. Make a custom search in
Tweetdeck or seismic for your tag or your name and see what crops up.
Keep the search and use it for MySpace, Facebook and Twitter (make
three searches, there is no universal search feature yet in either
product) and keep an eye on it. If they are out there talking about you
using your name or your handle – then you will know about it and be
able to at least gather evidence of intent (which is very important if
they start getting all sorts of freaky on you).
Then there is just simply being vigilant – if something else
happens from here at least I am informed, I have taken simple
precautions that may or may not work in this case, but at least
something is being done. I have used the privacy settings that are
available to me on Facebook, and tightened down other systems to keep
the noise level down. I have also unfriended people as I saw fit to do
so over the weekend, and I have made a sharp distinction between my
public and my private self. I have also set up monitoring on the
internet via Google and Tweetdeck to make sure that if anything
continues I will know about it and then be able to take action from
there on. Hopefully this will be the end of it, but in the longer run –
we will see what happens from here.
(Cross-posted @ IT Toolbox)