Issue #105 Avoid being cyberstalked

Issue #105

 

Surfing & Cruising

Avoid being cyber stalked

When I visit the Sun’s Canoe Web site (www.canoe.ca), I check the
weather and the daily Sunshine Boy. I rarely read the articles that accom-
pany the scandalous headlines, up until recently. Within a day of each
other two items caught my eye. The first one, “Man accused under new
cyber—stalking law,” is about a Los Angeles man who used the internet to
harass a woman. The second item, “Woman accused of rape,” was about a
Toronto woman who allegedly lured pre-teen girls to her apartment (via
the Net) and sexually assaulted them.

The very next day while shopping for magazines. I noticed XY maga-
zine (a mag aimed at gay teens) had CYBER printed on the cover. Inside
the mag, I came across an article entitled “Is the net dangerous?.” _
Lowlights included teenage boys who were assaulted by men they had ~
met from AOL chat rooms.

Quite a week for the cyber-stalking!

To see how much information about myself was readily available, I
went to World Pages, (www.worldpages.com) where the chilling tag line
is “find anything, anyone, anywhere.” After a quick search I found that I
am thankfully not in the database. Those who are in the database, have
their names, addresses, postal codes, phone numbers and e-mail address-
es listed.

Even scarier, is a map link showing exactly where that person lives.
Sites like World Pages have good intentions in mind; to make informa-
tion easily available. Unfortunately, it can be used by the wrong people.

If online privacy is a concern; I offer few suggestions. Although obvi-
ous, it never hurts to state:

1) Don’t give out your real e-mail address. That is the equivalent of

giving your phone number. Use a Hotmail (www.hotmail.com) address.
It’s a free service but only accessible via the Web.

2) Never give personal information. Phone numbers and addresses are
not something that you want to pass on freely; I always use an alias when I
filling out online forms. ‘

3) Be careful what you post on a personal homepage and be extra care-
ful when registering a domain. When you register a .com. .org, or .net
domain, the Internic posts all of that data, including your name, address,
email and phone number (www.internic.net).

4) Read about the software you use and learn about its privacy fea-
tures. Netscape offers e-mail filtering but also asks that you fill out a per-
sonal profile in the address book.

If you feel a need for privacy protection, software is available to
encrypt e-mail and online conversations. Pretty Good Privacy
(www.pgp.com/products) is the most common and its free of charge.

There are sites that deal with cyber—stalking and how to prevent it. The
most informative that I could find was CyberAngels
(www.cyberangels.org), founded by the same person who formed the
Guardian Angels. If you get past that, a lot of good advice can be found
here. Most of the content is geared to kids but well laid out and relevant
to IRC users and

Usenet subscribers.

There wasn’t much related to gay cyber-stalking from any sites I visit-
ed. The article in XY magazine was, surprisingly, the best resource that I
came across. They offer some safety tips similar to what I dealt with in
my article on IRC. I‘ll reiterate the most important one: Meet in a public
place!

Its too bad that a good medium is being misused in this manner.
Remember the online world is a mirror of the “real world“ — as it
expands, so will the number of stalkers, abusers and homophobes.
Sensationalistic media, like the Sun, will have you convinced cyber-stak-
ing is an epidemic. They would also have you believe that all gay men
wear leather.