There is no escaping the numerous disturbing reports swirling in these recent months that Facebook, one of the world’s leading social networking sites that connects us to one another, tracks its users web relentlessly even after they are logged out. But out of the many countless victims, one Brooklyn woman’s experience was so psychologically horrific and traumatic that she is seeking a restraining order to protect herself from her own Facebook profile.
Shyanne Jessup was your average Facebook user: she logged in from her home computer when she woke up to see what messages she might have missed during the night; she often logged in at her work computer
to pass the time; she even used her handy-dandy smart phone to check her profile at different points of the day. But she never knew her relationship with her profile would soon have her avoiding the Internet all
“At first I was flattered by all the attention my profile was giving me,” said Jessup, 33, a copy editor at an ad agency in Williamsburg. “Showing up with my avatar whenever I was reading an article, or right next to a slideshow I just watched. But then I started noticing that I wasn’t logged in most of the time. I read all the Facebook privacy stuff, but there was no mention of any implied tracking.” That was when Jessups says
she decided to confront her profile and asked if it was indeed tracking her without her permission.
“It answered my questions really evasively, and then just gave me some ‘Facebook credits,’ whatever those are. I became very uncomfortable with ‘extracurricular’ Facebook encounters after that.”
According to police records around the country, Jessup’s story falls in line with other users who claim to be stalked and harassed by their Facebook profile. This time last year, Neve Stone, a painter from Chicago
cancelled her online banking, closed her email accounts, and turned off her computer to break free from her monitoring predator.
“I had to do what I had to do to get away from Facebook,” said Stone. “It was taking over my life! It wanted to control me. It wanted to know where I was going, who I was friends with, what I was doing at all hours of the day. Then when I joined Twitter, it exposed private elements of my profile to the public to embarrass and humiliate me, like photos from spring break 2007 in Cancun. My boss was never meant to see those!”
Jessup doesn’t want to have to run and hide forever, but she thinks Facebook is not going out without a fight. Jessup’s restraint application claims that she then proceeded to discontinue her membership with the
social networking website, but her Facebook profile continued to haunt her: popping up during presentations at work, constantly sending her notifications on her phone and tablet, and even creeping out her friends.
“Shyanne’s profile used to be cool,” says Winter Sanders, a work colleague. “You could see all sorts of cool YouTube videos of Tiffany, Heart, Pat Benatar. But now all of a sudden it’s just creepy quotes from David Lynch movies. And the other day I almost ‘liked’ a Justin Bieber page because it claimed Shyanne liked it first.”
But Ms. Jessup sings a different tune. “I’ve never listened to Justin Bieber in my life,” Ms. Jessup clarifies, boldly.
“I think Shyanne is overstating the issue,” Ms. Jessup’s profile finally admitted to (Mostly) Public Radio in a phone interview. “Yes, I’ve been showing up in unexpected places, but that’s only for her protection. I love Shyanne and she loves me, ok? I just wanted to make sure she’s fine. Don’t you get that? Why doesn’t she get it? I mean I’ll kill myself! Don’t believe me? I’ll do it!… As for the ‘Bieber’ thing, that was just to get her attention.”
While Ms. Jessup waits for the law to take over, she has been avoiding certain blogs and shopping websites simply because she knows they are in the Facebook network. “If I go my whole life without seeing that profile ever again, it’ll be too soon.”
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