Facebook Stalking

Senator Chuck Schumer is at it again.  Whenever something happens in the world somehow Mr. Schumer will find a way to propose a law about it.  For instance, last month when a Malaysia Airline was shot down over the Ukraine, Schumer suggested that we equip our commercial airlines with anti-missile defenses so that an event like that doesn’t happen here.   Remember when Avonte Oquendo, the boy with autism whose remains were found  after he disappeared at age 14 from his school in October?  Senator Schumer proposed “Avonte’s Law,” which would place electronic tracking devices to be worn by children with autism.  My sister raised an autistic child and never lost her once.  That was just good parenting.  My own mom had a lucrative career building bombs while working at the arsenal.  When she had her first child she quit to become a stay at home mom.  We may not have had two cars and steak for dinner every night but no new legislation was required for my mom to raise four kids.

This weeks Schumerian target are those ubiquitous wristband fitness devices.  There are dozens of them on the market and Senator Schumer has targeted Fitbit.  He claims that these wrist pedometers are a  “privacy nightmare” and that they collect personal information on your health, sleep, and location – information which should be just that – personal.  Without doing his research, Schumer opined that Fitbit will sell your personal information.  Fitbit responded with;  “Fitbit does not sell user data. Our privacy policy prevents us from doing this. We are committed to our users’ privacy and welcome the opportunity to work with Senator Schumer on this important issue.”  Alas, it is too late for Fitbit.  Just google “privacy nightmare.”  I wonder why Schumer didn’t target other giants of the industry such as Nike or Garmin. 

Most users of these fitness devices eagerly and willingly register these tools and freely upload their information for the world to see.  Personally, I would register the device under a fake name for I don’t want the world to see how lazy I am.  Actually, I am not lazy but as a piano player, I spend much of my time sitting lifelessly at either the piano or computer.  I also spend an enormous amount of time practicing away from the piano either on my sofa or in a deck chair by the pool.  You may think that I’m napping but in reality I am working very studiously at composing, memorization and improvising.

If Mr. Schumer is truly concerned about our privacy, especially the personal information many of us freely post about ourselves, maybe he should look into Facebook.

When I was a kid I had a neighbor who was always looking out her window watching us kids play.  I would look over to her house to see the curtains rustle as she hid from view.  In college, every kid in the dorm practiced the art of voyeurism.  A friend of mine admitted that she was always watching the man next door and it bothered her conscience when she was caught lustily watching him. 

If we knew someone was stalking us and gathering information on us, it would certainly creep us out.  Our personal information is none of their business.  So how come we are accepting of people using Facebook to cyberstalk us?  The answer is simple; we do it to other people ourselves. 

Facebook serves as a covert method of investigation and discovering a wealth of information about people we don’t actually know.  Every time we meet someone new, one of the first things we will do is look them up on Facebook in order to learn everything about them and even “friend” them to get more.  We want to know who their parents and siblings are, what they have been up to lately, where they live, where they vacation, who their friends are, where they work, how old they are, who they are they dating, status updates, photo uploads, photo tags, photo comments, wall posts, friend additions, group memberships, attended events, mutual friends, where they may have commented and what they “like.”  Facebook doesn’t have the physical elements of being stalked in the real world, such as being followed or watched but the ulterior motive is just the same and just as real. 

Online stalking may also consist of people communicating with you in ways that unsettle you (whether purposefully intended or unknowingly), especially with respect to suggesting or implying that they’re watching and noting your every comment and update.  Peter Baterip was accused of stalking an ex girlfriend and contacting her on Facebook using a fake identity over the course of 18 months.  There have been numerous stories of teens (and adults posing as teens) who bully and harass people to the point of the victims even completing suicide in some cases.  Many employers take to Facebook to gather information about their employees.  One local man was fired from his job when he called in sick but later posted a selfie of himself at a baseball game on Facebook.  His boss was one of his “friends.”  There was a Roman Catholic priest in TX who was accused of Facebook stalking.  There was nothing wrong with that except all his stalkees were teenage boys in his parish.  Without committing a crime, he was removed from active ministry. 

Facebook stalking, like regular stalking, allows the stalker to secretly gather information about the person they are interested in.  Facebook stalking is less likely to have an illegal component and is generally accepted by it’s voyeuristic victims.  The argument being, that if you didn’t want others to know about your life, you wouldn’t post it all over the internet.   But, the real reason is that – we all do it and don’t feel we are being voyeuristic about it.  That’s actually called denial.  Maybe we are not willing to look into the abyss because we are afraid what will be staring back at us.   I don’t know, does the shoe fit?

Have you ever searched Facebook for someone you dated like fifteen years ago?  Have you ever searched Facebook for high school friends to see who aged better, or who has the better job, who went bald, who got fat or who married whom?  Stalking has become a perfectly normal activity.   So you searched an ex-lover or new acquaintance on Facebook, who cares?  If a neighbor watches you out his window or takes a photo of you, why is that different or worse? 

Does Schumer know about Facebook stalking?  Sure he does but no one will ever do anything about it because we all do it, so that makes it okay.  After it was discovered that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was the Boston Bomber, his Facebook page received  millions of hits within hours before it was taken down.  But, not before people took snapshots of his pages and downloaded all the data.  Nothing creepy about that.  Do you want to see his pages?  Sure you do.  Just go to Google Images and search “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev facebook page.”  Want to see who his friends are?  Sure you do.  Want to see him shirtless?  Sure you do.  Nothing creepy here because, *you* are doing it and not some creepy person or organization you don’t know, such as Fitbit.   Unlike Fitbit, I wonder if Facebook sells your personal information . . . ?  Does Schumer know about this?

PS, if you are lonely or bored, turn off Facebook and go outside to meet real people.  A high-five is much healthier than a poke.  A real friend is much more healthier than a “friend.”  


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