Electronic tracking a partner without consent is acceptable, say 46% of young people

Just about everybody these days carries a smartphone around with them everywhere they go. In fact, you’re considered quite an oddball if you don’t.

But, although having a powerful internet-enabled device always at your beck and call can be enormously helpful, and help you keep in touch with friends and family, it can also come with a downside.

Because your smartphone can help others monitor and track you remotely, revealing your location when you may prefer to keep your activities private.

That’s bad enough – but how many people would actually abuse the technology to spy on others? Sadly, if a new survey is to be believed, it could be more common than we feared.

The survey, by VicHealth in Melbourne, quizzed 1923 Australians aged between 16 and 24 years about their attitudes to violence against women and gender equality, but what interests us most today is what the survey had to say about electronic tracking.

And, the survey claims, almost half of all young people (46%) believe that electronically tracking partners through their computers and smartphones, or by installing spyware, is acceptable.

Although most young people (84%) agree that tracking a partner by electronic means without her consent is serious, nearly half (46%) believe that it is acceptable to some degree (compared to 35% of those aged 35-64). Young men are more likely to agree with this than young women (52% v 40%).

In other words, all that time that you have been worried about evil hackers based on the other side of the planet breaking into your PC or Android phone, perhaps you should have been more concerned about the risk much closer to home.

According to VicHealth, the methods used to harass, and control the movements and communications of victims without consent include:

  • checking mobile phone call histories, messages and contacts
  • installing and using mobile phone and computer tracking spyware to enable keylogging and other monitoring
  • using webcams to record and transmit information about a victim’s movements and activities
  • checking a victim’s instant messaging, chat room and browser activity

What the findings of this survey says to me is that society has not done a good enough job of teaching young people to respect each other’s privacy, and that willing consent should be sought before rifling through the contents of someone else’s computer or smartphone.

The danger is that technology has moved on at a fast pace, but the teaching of ethics in schools has failed to keep up, creating a generation of young people who somehow know that electronic monitoring without consent is serious, but at the same time think it is somehow acceptable.

It’s not acceptable to snoop on someone’s phone, computer or social networking account, even if you believe that it will help you keep a relationship together or will reveal the truth of who they might be talking to. Just as it wouldn’t be acceptable to break into their house and ransack their private diaries.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned in that viewpoint, or maybe I was brought up in a time when it was harder to spy on other people as no-one carried a smartphone around with them. Just because it’s easier for you to spy and track a partner now, doesn’t make it right.

If you are concerned that you are being digitally stalked and spied upon, visit sites like Digital-Trust where they provide advice for victims.

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