Cyberstalking - A Privacy Issue presented at BSidesAtlanta 2019

by Ismaelle Vixsama,

Summary : Social media platforms have become an integral part of our normal interactions and in some instances replacing human to human interactions altogether. There are an estimated 2.27 billion users logging onto Facebook, and 260 million logging onto LinkedIn monthly and sharing their private data. This increase in the use of social media and oversharing of information on social media has however, introduced users to a new threat: cyberstalking. Cyberstalking can range from trolling on social media to physically stalking of victims and causing them bodily harm. The Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research published findings in 2017 of a nationally representative study suggesting that about 8% of Americans have been stalked online with the physical threats impacting women between the ages of 18-24. Cyberstalking has become a consequence of privacy breaches (via fake profiles, poor implementation of privacy controls, and lack of awareness of the privacy controls) that social media platforms have failed to or are struggling to address, and that the law enforcement agencies are unable to hold them accountable for the breaches. It was found that, of the estimated users logging into social media platforms, 83 million of Facebook profiles and 56 million of LinkedIn profiles were found to be fake, and that the unclear terms of services merely exacerbated the efforts of law enforcement as to who was responsible for the breach. Nonetheless, over the years, regulations have been created to alleviate the dangers of cyberstalking, however, issues such as ambiguity in terms of services on social media platforms, user oversharing, and lax privacy controls still play a part in the growing concern of maintaining privacy on social media. This presentation will provide an overview of what constitutes “private data”, and how the mentioned issues can be contained with meaningful efforts taken by social media platforms and the users alike. The presentation also borrows elements of GDPR and the California Privacy Bill to address privacy breaches that may lead to cyber-stalking.