A recent blog entry for Cambridge Dictionaries Online (June 23, 2014) recorded a new use of the word creeping to mean “secretly viewing online information about someone”. This usage combines the idea of stealth behind the verb to creep with the suggestion that someone who does it is a creep, or a lowlife. The potential anonymity of electronic communication has always encouraged such clandestine behaviour. The term lurking, meaning “following communications on an electronic network without contributing” is at least 30 years old, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, with early computer users and CB radio enthusiasts equally implicated. The secrecy of both activities differentiates them from cyber-stalking, which involves overtly harassing the object of your attention online and is a criminal offence. All of these terms reflect our discomfort at the threat the internet poses to our privacy. However, there is a more innocent form of creeping. At least one entry in the Urban Dictionary presents it simply as a non-sinister way to follow what your friends are doing. Perhaps you don’t need to be a creep to indulge in creeping.
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