CYBER-STALKING: OBSESSIONAL PURSUIT AND THE DIGITAL CRIMINAL
Though the legal recognition of stalking is a recent evolution, the behaviour that is involved is by no means a product of the 20th century. It is known though that criminal behaviour is incredibly adaptive to new technologies, with credit card, mobile phone and computer fraud as examples. It is also acknowledged that stalking has now taken an on-line form, colloquially referred to as cyber-stalking.
As the personal computer and the Internet bring the world into our homes, they provide access to a vast amount of information, and provide forums for individuals from all over the world to meet one another in a relatively anonymous environment. One example of these forums is the chat room where people from hundreds of countries may gather and meet, trade information and files, and chat about a range of topics from music to sex. Though this has bred a large number of international relationships, most of which prove harmless, it does present the possibility that ones on-line personality may become the target of unwanted attention.
Cyberstalking, which is simply an extension of the physical form of stalking, is where the electronic mediums such as the Internet are used to pursue, harass or contact another in an unsolicited fashion. Most often, given the vast distances that the Internet spans, this behaviour will never manifest itself in the physical sense but this does not mean that the pursuit is any less distressing. There are a wide variety of means by which individuals may seek out and harass individuals even though they may not share the same geographic borders, and this may present a range of physical, emotional, and psychological consequences to the victim.
It is the purpose of this paper to examine the wider phenomenon of stalking and to cover issues relating to legal and behavioural classifications, and to examine the incidence and prevalence of stalking. Some of the measures that may be employed by individuals in protecting their on-line identity will also be addressed.