Data Privacy Day (January 28th) falls during National Stalking Awareness Month (January), highlighting the fact that technology and personal information available on the Internet are used to control and stalk individuals. Cyber stalkers increasingly use a variety of telephone, surveillance, and computer technologies to harass, terrify, intimidate, coerce, and monitor people online. Therefore, the IACP’s National Law Enforcement Leadership Initiative on Violence Against Women and the Law Enforcement Cyber Center are providing information you can use to educate your community about limiting personal information available on the web and taking steps to protect sensitive and personal information.
While the Internet is a great opportunity to share things about ourselves, meet new people, and communicate with family and friends, personal information posted on social media platforms and other sites can also be used by criminals and other individuals to stalk. Stalkers use personal information and technology to send multiple emails or text messages, monitor a victim’s computer activity, track the location of a victim using GPS, watch the victim through hidden cameras, intercept phone calls and messages, and impersonate the victim or someone else.
Last month, in a cyber stalking case investigated by the FBI and supported by local law enforcement, Brian Curtis Hile was sentenced to five years in prison. The case demonstrates all the implications of personal privacy online. Additionally, according to demographic questionnaires submitted from stalking victims through the volunteer organization Working to Halt Online Abuse, 2012 had the highest number of reported stalking cases in the last twelve years, and the majority of victims were women.
As more crimes are committed online, and as more law enforcement agencies launch cybercrime units, it is important that law enforcement officers educate victims they are working with, as well as community members, about the importance of data privacy and safety online. Below are some tips from the Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign—a coalition of industry, government, and nonprofit partners including the IACP—that law enforcement can share to help ensure online safety:
- create strong passwords, and don’t share them with anyone;
- keep operating systems, browsers, and other critical software optimized by installing updates;
- maintain an open dialogue with family, friends, and your community about Internet safety;
- limit the amount of personal information posted online, and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information too widely; and,
- be cautious about what is accessed or read online.
The IACP continues to provide law enforcement with resources to address cyber stalking and victimization. For more information about the IACP’s Violence Against Women efforts, please contact Michael Rizzo, IACP Project Manager, at email@example.com, or visit the IACP’s National Law Enforcement Leadership Initiative on Violence Against Women webpage. For more information about cyber crimes visit the IACP’s Cyber Crime Resources or contact the Law Enforcement Cyber Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.