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Over 40% of online daters in India experience digital stalking

A new survey, commissioned by Kaspersky of 21000 people worldwide of which 1000 respondents were from India, reveals shocking data about the extent of digital abuse. 

  • Nearly half (49%) of the respondents believe that Googling/checking social media accounts of a person you had started dating as a form of due diligence is acceptable and 52% admitted to doing so when they started dating someone.
  • 42% of the respondents from India had experienced some form of online stalking from a person they were newly dating.
  • 65% of the Indian respondents are willing to share passwords that could potentially allow their location to be accessed.

According to the study – which interviewed 1000 people each in 21 countries around the world – online daters are keen to take steps to protect themselves in the quest for love. However, despite almost a quarter of respondents (23%) saying they had experienced some form of online stalking from a person they were newly dating, people are still vulnerable to an alarming rise in stalking and abuse this Valentine’s day from risks posed by location settings, data privacy and more broadly, oversharing. 

In India, it was seen that well over half (54%) of the respondents have reported some form of violence or abuse from a current or previous partner.

The report showed that 27% of respondents had been sent unwanted emails or messages and perhaps most concerningly, 23% had been filmed or photographed without their consent. A further 24% admitted they had had their location tracked, 18% that their social media accounts or emails had been hacked, and worryingly, 22% having had stalkerware installed on their devices without their consent. 21% of the women respondents within India said that their social media and email accounts were hacked into by the person they have dated earlier. 

In fact, 21% of respondents said they worried about the prospect of being stalked online, and female respondents being slightly more concerned at the prospect than males (23% were worried compared to 19% of male respondents). Another point of concern is the installation of stalkerware or enabling of a monitoring tool into the devices of present or ex-partners. According to the survey, 26% of the male respondents had installed some form of stalkerware or monitoring tool into the devices of their current partner, while 24% of female respondents did the same. 

According to Adrian Hia, Managing Director for Asia Pacific at Kaspersky, stalkerware’s chilling grip on thousands demands action. “This insidious tool fuels harmful behaviour, and Kaspersky is tackling it head on. We will continue to raise awareness, share expertise, and collaborate with partners from public and private sectors. It is our unwavering mission to equip victims with knowledge and guide them towards the safest path, ultimately reversing the tide against digital abuse,” he adds.

The picture is no different globally too, with more of those experiencing some form of online stalking being from parts of South and Central America 38% in Mexico and 36% in Argentina. Increasingly, online stalking is becoming a major problem in whole Asia Pacific, and its numbers are almost similar to that of the Americas. 28% of the respondents in Asia Pacific have faced some form of online stalking from someone they were dating; while 31% of respondents from the Americas face similar issues. In the APAC countries surveyed, India is at the top when it comes to online stalking with 42% respondents saying they faced the issue, followed by Malaysia with 30% and Singapore with 27%. 

“The Internet of things, or connected world is brilliant and offers a myriad of possibilities. But with opportunity comes threats and one of those threats of a connected world is the ease of access to traceable data which leaves us vulnerable to abuse”, commented David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky. “Whilst the blame for these horrific behaviours never lies with stalking victims, unfortunately there is still a burden upon them to take steps to minimise risks. I think it’s great that people are taking steps to verify identities online, but would encourage people to just stop and do a quick sense check on any information, passwords or data they share, to just think through how that information could be used in nefarious hands.”

“Navigating online dating and virtual spaces can be challenging and it’s crucial for social media and dating apps to implement verification processes, which can help confirm that users’ profiles match their actual photos. To my knowledge, Bumble are the only dating app currently using this level of verification. I would love to see others adopting similar safety measures. Additionally, safety guides and resources should be readily accessible online in multiple languages, ensuring that vulnerable individuals have the necessary support without needing to register for an app”, commented Emma Pickering, Head of Technology-Facilitated Abuse and Economic Empowerment, Refuge. “The UK’s Online Safety Act sets a precedent by regulating platforms to protect users. Given the pervasive nature of stalking and technology-facilitated abuse, we advise individuals to secure their online presence, including passwords and accounts. Those with concerns should contact local authorities or support services” she added.

In India, stalking both physical and via online is considered a major offence. As per the Indian Penal Law online stalking can lead to imprisonment for a term of 3 to 5 years along with a hefty fine. 

Kaspersky has created some top tips for staying safe whilst dating online below, for more details, please take a look at our safe dating guide or for further ways to stay safe from Stalkerware, please visit https://stopstalkerware.org/resources/ 

  • Keep passwords to yourself and make sure they are complex and unique
  • If it seems too good to be true, it might just be – if in doubt check! 
  • Take a moment to check your own digital privacy
  • Think before you share – the internet has long memory and sharing too much too soon can leave you vulnerable
  • Create a ‘safe plan’ if you move from digital to real worlds
  • Consider using a comprehensive cyber security or VPN solution to protect yourself

Kaspersky works with experts and organizations in the field of domestic violence, ranging from victim support services and perpetrator programs through to research and government agencies, to share knowledge and support both professionals and victims. Kaspersky is one of the co-founders of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, an international group dedicated to tackling stalkerware and combating domestic violence. Since 2021, Kaspersky has been a consortium partner of the EU project DeStalk, co-funded by the Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Program of the European Union. Kaspersky has also launched and maintains TinyCheck, a free, safe and easy-to-use tool to check devices for stalkerware and monitoring apps. 

Survey Details

Arlington Research, on behalf of Kaspersky conducted 21,000 online interviews, 1,000 in each of the following countries: The UK, Germany, Spain, Serbia, Portugal, The Netherlands, Italy, France and Greece, The USA, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, Asia-Pacific: China, Singapore, Russia, India and Malaysia

Respondents were aged 16 years and over. All were either in a long-term relationship (62% of the sample), dating someone (16%) or not currently dating/in a relationship but had been in the past (21%).

Fieldwork took place between 3-17 January 2024. 

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