BBS Rape

Some of you may recall that I periodically caution others to be careful about what is said around here, on the grounds that sometimes harm can befall a person on the basis of one's views and / or method of expression. Some of you may also have seen me, here and in other corners of the bitstream, speaking out against the practice of SysOps being hard-nosed re: knowing everything about a prospective user, without telling prospective users anything about themselves, before giving access to BBSes. I've been called everything from an alarmist to paranoid for this stance; to the name-callers I say, tough mammaries.

To the rest of you, though, I'll tell a story about a friend of mine. It's a story I haven't told before, and I'll likely never tell it again. I'm not about to give detailed information out of respect for her memory; besides, anyone who thinks me an unreliable witness probably wouldn't believe it anyway. I can't even promise that I'll answer any replies sent to this message, as this story is a hard one for me to tell.

I have always advocated not giving out one's personal information to strangers called up on a modem. (This advise applies elsewhere, too, but I've noticed people tend to be more willing to divulge personal info to a BBS than they will to a voice caller. Go figger.) My friend and I even rented out a P.O. Box together for the purpose of using =that= for our address when calling BBSes. (These days I give an electronic address, depending on which network I think the SysOp is most likely to recognize and / or have access to use.) Even my birthday changes from board to board; some SysOps think I'm 82, while others think I'm 23. (If ever I wanted to make use of so-called "adult" facilities on a BBS, then of course I'd prove to the SysOp that I'm of legal majority; since that's not where my own interests lie, however, there is no "need to know" on the part of the SysOp.)

There was one SysOp, though, who she decided was trustworthy. She told me her reasons -- his profession, his insistance that his only concern for information was that nothing "illegal" happen on his board, his guarantee of "confidential user records", and his personal references, which she trusted. What she and I didn't know, though, was that the BBS wasn't very well tended; apparently a lot of people had access to the machine and SysOp access to the BBS.

I'm telling her story because she can't tell it herself. She hasn't been able to tell it herself for some time now.

She's dead.

Her killer found her from those "confidential user records" from that one SysOp she trusted enough to give her street address to.

There's not a law that will touch this SysOp, either, for being lax with his "confidential user records". (I know this can be argued in the abstract, but in =this= case the arguments have already been shot down for reasons I can't go into without revealing details I don't want to reveal.)

I recently had a netmail conversation with a SysOp who's very gung-ho about Caller*ID. What disturbed me most about this conversation was that he used a very common line ("the only users who don't like it are there to Make Trouble") to justify it, and when I pointed out another valid reason for not liking it he ignored my reason altogether. Just had nothing to say about =that= part of my mail.

Certainly, corresponding with others via the bitstream is safer than driving a car on the freeway, and probably even safer than taking a shower in a non- decalled tub. But it's =not= 100% safe!

Now that that's out of the way, I'd like to share some mail that got sent in my direction after the last time I pointed out the lack of complete safety in this medium.


The original was written by Theresa Petite in the DEBATE Echo It was dated 14 May 93 and addressed to All

| Once again, we sysops, let alone users, are tragically           |
| reminded of the privacy rights regarding BBS communications,     |
| etc...                                                           |
|                                                                  |
| A local BBS has had someone at co-sysop level using the user     |
| files as a personal dating ground.  This turned to 3 counts      |
| of rape filed against him yesterday.  Allegedly, he would        |
| look up a girl's information, etc. and show up on the            |
| doorstep.  He would not leave.  He would then threaten           |
| force, etc., followed by rape.                                   |
|                                                                  |
| I am taking the address requirement out of my system stats       |
| as soon as I can do some serious programming changes as a        |
| precaution and/or a way to help my users feel safer when         |
| calling my BBS.  I never did like the idea of leaving my         |
| address as part of user status requirements; in fact, I try      |
| to leave that blank on most systems if I can.  It's stuff        |
| like this that makes me feel more and more that we have to       |
| do SOMETHING not only to protect ourselves as sysops but         |
| also ourselves as users.                                         |
|                                                                  |
| --Theresa                                                        |
|                                                                  |
| Tabby 3.0                                                        |
| Origin: Student Union BBS -- 909/798-4376 -- HST/v.32bis         |
| (1:207/217)                                                      |

[This was a reply to the post I already crossed here. Am omitting the quotes for space considerations. -d.]

This sort of activity was going on in my local BBS area (Omaha, NE). After several altercations my choice was to rent a P.O. Box and leave that as my address on ever BBS I frequent. Many BBS's say specifically STREET ADDRESS, but nevertheless I usually leave my P.O. Box if I'm not sure and if that isn't good enough for access (and I never have found a decent board that wouldn't accept it) then I refuse to call.

Before I rented the Box though, I found at least 3 different BBS's in this area that were releasing user's personal information (mostly just the females). In 1 case the SysOp himself called me and refused to let me off the phone, so I hung up eventually, and then he repeatedly called me thereafter and finally he showed up at my doorstep.

I make it clear (I hope) to most of the female users that I come across that if they have any problems in this way to contact me. I will investigate these matters and send out the hounds.

I've been a SysOp for some 9 years and I have been asked many times by users and even other SysOps for phone numbers and addresses of other users or SysOps-and never once have I ever released any of that information. If it appeared to be an emergency I would call the party myself and give them the other person's number (if this was all ok'd in advance).

I don't know what the legal standpoint would be on "sending out the hounds", probably somewhere in the realm of libel or slander. I prefer to call it "whistle-blowing" myself. This is where you send out your loyal pack of users to tell all the other users that a particular BBS is handing out the personal information of its users. I have always found this quite effective-its never failed to shut down the offending BBS in a very short period of time. Perhaps its works so well because all the female users abandon that BBS and the males soon follow???

In 9 years I've only found 3 BBS's like that, and there are about 100 BBS's (I believe) around here now, and there have been MANY ups N downs along the way. So I'd say the percentage if VERY VERY low. (And that's GOOD.)

A little prevention goes a long way (I hope).

Christine Parkison

Go Back to Shy David's Sexual Assault Page.