Monthly Archives: October 2008

Stalking via SMS – you are unprotected

Interestingly enough, Oprah had a show on that brought up an issue of their child receiving unwanted text messages on the child’s phone.  While we make look at a simple text as harmless, the social pressure and stalking issue raises a thought.  How do kids handle and protect themselves from stalking via SMS messages.  it is now a mainstay of most cellphones and packages.  Short burst of text that can turn hurtful, mean and threatening.   Worst is that you can’t stop them they way you should be able.

Not a single cell phone carrier privacy policy, I could find and fully digest, dealt with the ability to blacklist specific phone numbers from sending text to your or your childs’ cell phone.  While it seems all of them offered the ability to restrict all text messages from being received, there was no singling out specific numbers.

Another huge problem is that not only do the cellular company websites themselves offer the ability to send a text message to a number via a web interface, there are 3rd party applications that offer the same ability. This gives anonymity to the sender, increasing the social stalking ability.

  • Sprint – humorously Sprint states that their service is, and we quote “Sprint Nextel services are not intended for children”. Sprint themselves may send text messages, but you can opt out.  Unfortunately this does not apply to other senders.
  • Verizon – they have the ability to cease per call blocking, but not texting
  • US Cellular – they state they do not collect information on those under the age of 13, but they have nothing in their policy on text messaging protection
  • AT&T (Cingular) – They do their best to “reduce unsolicited bulk short text messages but is unable to filter all marketing messages that you receive on your wireless device from third parties“.  So this means they do not allow you to filter specific numbers either.
  • Cricket (Leap Wireless) – the weakest privacy policy of every site visited.  Limited and not in depth enough for any protection
  • T-Mobile – Same as the rest, they do not collect data from those under 13 knowingly, but nothing in stalking prevention

It is amazing to see in every policy they state how much information they do keep and track for marketing and beacon location, for varying lengths of time, yet do not offer the simple ability to stop unwanted harassment from specific numbers.  While I know it may be impossible to stop it for websites, why not the simple ability to block all messages that do not come from authorized numbers, or at least no websites and blacklisted numbers?

Let your cell provider know that this feature is wanted.  You can find feedback links on each site.

Defining Social Stalking

SocialStalking: The act of a person, or group of persons to gain information about a person, with or without their knowledge.  If we look at actual definitions:

the willful, malicious and repeated following or harassing of another person.”

a hunt for game carried on by following it stealthily

Some people are actually stating they are doing this behavior through the social networks.  Any form of online behavior needed to be wrapped up into a larger group.  SocialStalking.

As we explore the sites to build and view not only what they collect but the stated privacy polices, the amount of required information social networking sites collect and optional parts that consumers willingly contribute is amazing.  Everyone should assume a decline of privacy and increase in the ability to be socially stalked.  WE have moved beyond simply Googling someone for general information.

Rarely do I uncover a social networking site that had a public privacy policy defining proper usage.  I recently ran across one that had some excellent verbiage in theirs:

  • You could not engage in cyber-bullying
  • You could not harass memebers
  • You could not impersonate as someone else

While all of these sound like simple and common sense policies, I have not run across another site yet that places this directly in their privacy polices.  So this is where we begin to describe what SocialStalking is, how to protect yourself and what the sites do to prevent it.