Apr 15,2020 | 7 min read

What is Cyberstalking

Author - Jatin Sharma

Introduction

Stalking is the act of following a particular person for a long time. Usually, a stalker follows the following person everywhere and also threatened by repeatedly calling or sending messages. In cyberstalking, the stalking is done by using the internet or electronic media which involves sending emails and SMSs to that person or victim. Cyberstalkers take unfair advantage of the internet to keep them unidentified. The cyberstalking cases are going on increasing with the widespread internet boom. Cyberstalking is a serious crime and there are few provisions in India to deal with it.

What Is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is an activity in which a person or abuser or stalker stalks or harass another person or victim by misusing the internet or electronic media. In cyberstalking a stalker may contact a person either by an email, social media, messaging apps or other online media. To harass a person a stalker may post messages, pictures or information online about a person. Some may also track location or online activities.

Though cyberstalkers do not stalk the aggrieved person physically but they do commit this offence digitally. The cyberstalkers do adopt all types of technological and digital instruments  assault but it is an emotional assault and harassment which is carried out by using electronic media. However, the provisions provided to it are different than real-life situations. 

Kinds Of Cyberstalking

Women in India whether she is a college student, working professional or housewife get stalked on a regular basis. Stalking itself is a criminal offence either physical or electronic and is punishable with one to three years of jail. Let’s explore the kinds of cyberstalking that till now has been reported worldwide.

  • Catfishing - In Catfishing, Stalkers create a fake profile on social media to approach victims. Sometimes they copy the existing user's profile with photos to look it like a real one.
  • Monitoring location check-ins on social media - Stalkers keep an eye on the activities of a victim from their check-ins on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. This is an easier job for a stalker to gauge a victim's behavioural pattern quite accurately.
  • Visiting virtually via Google Maps Street View - If a stalker discovers the victim's address, then it is not hard to find the area, neighbourhood, and surroundings by using Street View. Tech-savvy stalkers don't need that too. They can discover the victim's place from the posts or photos posted on social media.
  • Hijacking webcam - Computer's webcam hijacking is one of the most disgusting methods of cyberstalking to invade the victim's privacy. Stalkers push malware-infected files into the victim's computer which gives them access to the webcam.
  • Installing Stalkerware - One more method which is increasing its popularity is the use of Stalkerware. It is a kind of software or spyware which keeps track of the location, enable access to text and browsing history, make an audio recording, etc. And an important thing is that it runs in the background without any knowledge to the victim.
  • Looking at geotags to track location - Mostly digital pictures contain geotags which is having information like the time and location of the picture when shot in the form of metadata. Geotags comes in the EXIF format embedded into an image and is readable with the help of special apps. In this way, the stalker keeps an eye on the victim and gets the information about their whereabouts.

Provisions For Cyberstalking In India

Cyberstalking is a serious crime worldwide and the number of cases of it goes on increasing every year. In India, a large percentage of cases filed against cyberstalking are by women. To deal with the cyberstalking in India following provisions are available:

  • Information Technology Act, 2000 - When a person publishes or sends salacious material via electronic media is to be charged under Section 67 of the Act. 
    Data protection is very important to prevent cyberstalking which is easily leaked by hackers. For data protection, IT Amendment Act, Section 43A has been included the provision for the inclusion of a Body Corporate. If a firm or a company transmits sensitive information about a person, according to the act such body corporate will be liable to pay the damages by compensation.
    Under Section 67 of the Act, when a stalker sends or posts any obscene content to the victim via electronic media then they will be liable to punish with 5 years of jail and Rs. 1 Lacs fine. If the incidence repeats then they will be liable to punish with 10 years of jail and Rs. 2 Lacs fine.
    As per the provision provided in the law, when a stalker misuses victim's personal information to post an obscene message or comment on any electronic media, then this action is punishable for defaming and harming a person's reputation with imprisonment of 2 years, fine or both.
  • The criminal law (Amendment) Act, 2013 - According to the act, Stalking is an offence under Section 354D of the IPC (Indian Penal Code).
    When a man is trying to communicate with a woman without her interest over the internet via email, instant messages or any other electronic communication is the offence of stalking.

Racism is also a kind of cyberstalking.

Conclusion

To deal with the issue of cyberstalking, there are few provisions are provided but not any specific law is available. The Government needs to think about the stalking law for effective prevention from cyberstalking. However, people also need to be aware of their activities and sharing information with others. They require being extra careful about privacy.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


JATIN SHARMA

Serving to big corporate to an individual with excellent approach of implementation of law and deep rooted knowledge of corporate laws, intellectual property right laws, contract laws, transaction advisory.

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