Stalkers Are Increasingly Using Phone Apps to Follow Their Victims

News Stalker Phone Apps Featured

Stalking is something that is as old as time. As long as there have been people and relationships, there has been obsession and a desire to soak up every bit of information about a person, but not in a good way.

Today’s technology is making it easier for stalkers to continue on with their mission to control, and they are increasingly doing it with the aid of phone apps.

Stalking via Phone Apps

An Australian woman woke up to her ex-boyfriend at the foot of her bed, telling her she was lucky it was him and not a bad person standing there.

She learned he’d been stalking her for months, using smartphone apps and technology to follow her every move and was able to remotely stop and start her car and even operate the windows.

“These types of technologies are becoming more and more common,” said Erica Olsen, Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence director.

“What we know, what we’ve always known, is that abusers and perpetrators will use any tactic and tool they can access in order to perpetrate harassment and abuse,” she added. “These are modern forms of tactics and behaviors. The behavior is not new, but the technology is.”

The perpetrator in Australia tracked his ex’s location using spyware, even paying a monthly fee for it. He’s not alone with this method of stalking being widespread to the point of tens of thousands of victims.

He additionally controlled her through an app that integrated with her car. He’d helped her purchase the car, so he had all the necessary registration information to feed into the app.

News Stalker Phone Apps Car

Olsen explains that app-based vehicle tracking is on the rise, yet it’s still just a modern take on an old abuse behavior. While abusers used to watch the odometer in a car, now they also know where the victim is traveling to, not just how many miles they’ve traveled.

“These behaviors existed beforehand, but the availability of some of these technologies absolutely can make it easier for abusers,” adds Olsen. “It can make it real time.”

More than half the victim service providers included in a survey reported that stalkers use cellphone apps to carry out their mission. Forty-one percent of service providers report that abusers use GPS tracking.

Karen Levy, a Cornell University sociology professor, co-wrote a paper on the ways social media and technology have worked together to create “a stalker’s paradise.”

She further explains that “digital intimate partner abuse is incredibly hard to fight because the relationship between abuser and victim is socially complex. Abusers have different kinds of access to and knowledge about their victims than the privacy threats we often think about.”

App Developer Responsibility

Olsen suggests that technologies and apps should take some responsibility and notify the user when their device is being tracked or when it has been connected to spyware.

This makes much sense, For all the ways that we know services and apps intrude on our personal data, why can’t they use that for good? Why can’t they also let us know when someone other than them has compromised our apps and devices? Sure, some do, but there is clearly a need for all of them to do so.

How do you believe we can help prevent the rise of digital stalking? Tell us in a comment below.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

One comment

  1. That is the problem with technology. It can be used for good and for bad. There is absolutely no way to limit the use of technology to only beneficial purposes. There will always be people who, for their own reasons, will corrupt even the most beneficial technology to their nefarious purposes.

    “Karen Levy, a Cornell University sociology professor, co-wrote a paper on the ways social media and technology have worked together to create “a stalker’s paradise.””
    Yes and no. While Facebook, Google, et al are doing their damnedest to collect any and all available data on as many people as they can, let’s not forget the sudden diarrhea of the keyboard that affects social media users as soon as the sit down at their computer. They will happily and eagerly divulge details of their lives that they would not tell their closest BFFs. Add to that every smartphone user’s desire to know their location to the nearest foot on a 24/7/365 basis, and their urge to post that location on social media, and you have a “stalker’s paradise”.

    “Olsen suggests that technologies and apps should take some responsibility”
    That is a vacuous statement. That is like saying that malware writers and hackers should “take responsibility” for the results of their actions. If they were “responsible” people, they would not be malware writers and hackers. Terrorists “take responsibility” for their actions. Lot of good that does the world. Morality cannot be legislated and/or forced on anybody, no matter how altruistic it may seem.

    ” and notify the user when their device is being tracked or when it has been connected to spyware.”
    The irony here is that the stalkers would claim that their right to privacy is being violated when their stalking is revealed to the victim.

    “How do you believe we can help prevent the rise of digital stalking?”
    We can’t. As the first sentence of the article says “Stalking is something that is as old as time.” and we still haven’t found a way to prevent stalking.

    Actually, there is a way of stopping stalking (and most other crime). That is “re-education” or what is commonly referred to as “brain washing”. However, that opens up a different can of worms.

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