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Cyberstalking -- stalking individuals via the Internet -- is increasing across America according to a study released Thursday by Wired Safety, an online safety and help group. While women remain the most likely targets of cyberstalkers, the study found that female cyberstalkers are also increasing in number.
In addition, growing numbers of children are cyberstalking other children, while members of certain ethnic groups, especially those from the Middle East, are increasingly targeted.
The study also found that often stalking moves from cyberspace to real life with tragic consequences. The organization said technology, such as the Trojan horse virus, is allowing cyberstalkers to enter personal computers without detection.
"We didn't find much good news," Parry Aftab, executive director of Wired Safety, said of the study results. "Identify theft is increasing. And because more people are cyber dating they become victims of cyberstalking when things don't work out."
Aftab also expressed concern over a January court decision ruling that Verizon must turn over the name of a subscriber under the subpoena power of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Citing provisions in the DMCA, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in August asked a federal district court in Washington, D.C., to enforce the subpoena, which seeks information related to "a computer connected to the Verizon network that is a hub for significant music piracy."
The court ruled in the RIAA's favor, but Verizon has appealed the decision, claiming the subpoena power granted in the DMCA is too broad and subverts due process. Unlike a usual subpoena, which requires some underlying claim of a crime and must be signed by a judge or magistrate, under the DMCA a subpoena can be issued by a court clerk without presenting evidence of a crime being committed.
"This is an outrageous and dangerous ruling," Aftab said. "It was supposedly about music piracy, but the result of the case is that anyone can obtain personal information about any Internet user by simply filling out a one-page form and submitting it to a court clerk."
Once that's done, Internet service providers would have to reveal the identity of the person named on the form, Aftab said.
"There is absolutely nothing you can do to protect yourself, even if you are a police officer doing undercover work against sexual predators," Aftab said. "The future safety and privacy of all Americans engaged in online communications now rests with Verizon winning this case on appeal. We hope the administration and Congress are paying close attention to this case and understand the very important implications."
The only good news cited by Aftab is that most states have criminalized cyberstalking and harassment, "which is way up from the 16 states that has such laws in 1998."