Being able to relax in a Starbucks sipping a cappuccino is something thousands of people do everyday, but celebrities don’t have such a luxury. Often chased by camera-toting paparazzi and rabid fans, movie and TV stars often have to run in and out of coffee shops, salons and shopping malls. Now, New York-based celebrities have to contend with a new “Stalker” website – appropriately named “Gawker Stalker” – that puts up almost real-time locations through a Google Maps interface. Representatives and publicists of those celebrities are upset and believe the service could put the stars in “harm’s way”.
Gawker Stalker is part of a larger gawker.com site that dishes gossip and news of celebrities. The Stalker section was started on March 14, 2006 and posts locations of stars on a Google Map-enabled page. Tipsters email email@example.com with the name and location of the celebrity and then two interns enter the information in a database. A constantly updated map then pinpoints the exact location and time of the sighting.
How quickly is the map updated? According to the gawker.com, it’s almost real-time. “Mapped pinpoints are posted anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours from when readers first send them in,” says the site. Does such timely and accurate information pose a danger to celebrities? Gawker.com says on their page that the 15 minutes delay, “provides an ample window for celebrities to move about before facing certain death exacted by their violently obsessive fans.” While this might work for stars getting a quick cup of coffee or on the tail-end of their lunch, other activities like shopping or getting a makeover would take much longer than 15 minutes and expose them to fans.
A single pinpoint of information about a star’s locations isn’t too significant to a stalker, but any decent intelligence officer or even avid readers of Tom Clancy novels know that a collection of locations over several days can help people predict where celebrities will be.
So far, dozens of stars including Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz and Lindsay Lohan have been tracked on the Stalker site. The majority of fans probably are harmless, merely wanting to get a glimpse of the star or at most a picture and an autograph, but there have been several cases in the past of stalkers who have threatened physical harm to celebrities. Leslie Zelnik, who represnts Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears, told New York’s Daily News that the new site, “dangerously puts these people in harm’s way. Somebody’s going to get hurt.”