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This chapter is from the book

The "Stalker" E-Card

Imagine you are checking your email and receive notification that you have received an electronic greeting, or "e-card." You click the link and are taken to a site with a black background upon which the following letters appear, one by one, as if they are being typed to you in real time:

  • Does it bother you to know that I am thinking of your beautiful green eyes and soft brown hair? You can turn this off, you know, and I'll be gone. Or will I? Maybe I'm nearby. Where is that again? That's right, Washington Road. I'm watching you.

How frightening this would be to anyone, but especially to a victim of a stalker, cyber stalker, or domestic violence. And yet the example we've given here is very similar to the eerie stalker e-card message created by a well-known, major greeting card company just a few years ago. The card's design centered around allowing the sender to "customize" it with very specific details, such as hair and eyes, location, and so on.

Just like websites, electronic cards can be created by anyone. There is no validation of who created them or where they came from without a detailed forensic investigation, and that is not likely to occur unless the e-card was somehow connected to a major crime.

Needless to say, this e-card was pulled from the site and is no longer accessible, but we mention it to point out that cyber stalking can come from many technologies. Even major corporations with millions of customers and big public relations departments sometimes lack oversight of their products or the insight that stalking is not a joke. Just ask anyone who has ever been a victim.

The anonymity of the Internet lends itself to people expressing themselves in ways they might not ordinarily express during face-to-face communications. As a result, people may say things that offend or outrage others.

Bestselling author Patricia Cornwell recently appealed to her readers to counter negative reviews of her novel Book of the Dead. It wasn't just one bad review, but a sudden onslaught of hundreds of negative reviews appearing on sites such as Amazon and eBay. Cornwell suspected an organized group was behind the effort and appealed to her readers to counter these negative reviews with positive ones. The negative reviews did not stop the book from becoming a bestseller, but it points out just how easy it is to use a very public and largely unregulated medium to wreak havoc on someone's reputation. Just like the female realtor who became a victim of identity assumption, a person's reputation can very quickly plummet using the power of the Internet.

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