It's not just stalkerware

Chantal Stekelenburg

Playlists: 'MCH2022' videos starting here / audio

Stalking is unwanted and/or repeated surveillance by an individual or group toward another person. But what is the impact of tech companies making it easier to do this with the development of technology? In the news, we hear about the increase in stalkerware found on devices or scary government spyware. But it’s not just that, there are so many more common tools used by stalkers.

From September 2020 to May 2021, the number of devices infected with stalkerware increased by 63 percent, according to a study by Norton Labs. But stalkerware is not what I encounter most when I get contacted by stalking victims. Almost anyone can become a victim of stalking; stalkers do not just target celebrities. Sometimes they are ex-partners known to the victim, other times they may be a casual acquaintance, or just a simple stranger. With stalkerware, the actor needs access to the device or needs to persuade the victim to install something. In cases where the stalker is a (ex-)partner, that might be doable. But in other cases, it is easier to gain access to the accounts of the victim, gather information about the victim from social media, or use tracking devices (looking at you Apple and Tile) to follow the victim. Tech companies develop new apps and gadgets seemingly without thinking about other ways these can be used. And they end up making it easier to stalk someone. But what can we do about this problem? Should we lower efforts hunting stalkerware and help victims gather evidence? Or can we do something else.