Americans create fake social media accounts to cyberstalk spouses and exes, survey says


In an age when privacy is top of mind for most people, almost half of Americans admit to 'stalking' an ex or current partner online without them knowing, according to a new survey by NortonLifeLock. — Dreamstime/TNS

Do you spy on your ex's social media accounts after you two break up? You aren't alone.

In an age when privacy is top of mind for most people, almost half of Americans admit to "stalking" an ex or current partner online without them knowing, according to a new survey by NortonLifeLock.

To be clear, online "creeping" is one thing, where you lurk to see who they follow or who's liking and commenting on their photos. When that behaviour involves harassment, it becomes cyberstalking. The commonality across all forms of online spying is that it's unwanted, creepy and sometimes illegal.

"Some of the behaviours identified in the (survey) may seem harmless, but there are serious implications when this becomes a pattern of behavior and escalates," said Kevin Roundy, technical director at NortonLifeLock.

It also becomes troublesome when people secretly install Stalkerware or "creepware" apps on their lovers' phones. This type of monitoring software records data that is being entered into a smartphone and transmits it to someone else.

"These apps can be hard to detect as they hide in plain sight as apps with legitimate uses such as family locating," Roundy said in a statement. One in 10 Americans admitted to using an app to monitor an ex or current partner's text messages, phone calls, direct messages, emails and photos, said the survey.

Men were 2.5 times more likely than women to engage in this behavior, NortonLifeLock found.

Other striking survey results were that 44% of adults spy on their partners because of trust issues. More men than women say they don't mind being tracked, while men are much more likely to monitor the location of their spouse or ex without consent, the survey found.

The cybersecurity company partnered with Harris Poll to interview more than 2,000 people about their sentiments and tendencies surrounding digital spying.

The most common form of online stalking was checking a partner's phone without them knowing, followed by reviewing their search history without consent. Nearly 10% of people admit to creating a fake profile to check on spouses or exes on social media, the survey found.

Notably, lots of people didn't really care about being cyberstalked.

Overall, 35% of people said they were unbothered by being stalked online by a current or former partner as long as it's not happening in person, the survey found. But men are far more likely to agree with this (43% vs. 27% of women). – USA Today/Tribune News Service

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