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article imageCelebrity Tracking Website Raises Privacy Concerns

Jim Bertel.
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By Jim Bertel     Apr 12, 2006 in Lifestyle
A celebrity website is providing more than gossip on Hollywood's biggest stars - it is tracking their every move. Many fans say they love it, but some of the stars being tracked believe it invades their privacy and is downright dangerous.
Celebrities are big business in the United States. Magazines, television shows, and websites are devoted to the latest celebrity news. But one celebrity website, Gawker.com, is trying to be different from the rest by delivering more than just gossip, it is offering real-time tracking of some of entertainment's biggest stars.
Here's how works: If fans see a celebrity in public, they email that tip to the website. Within 20 minutes, that sighting is posted online complete with a map pinpointing that star's location.
The site's Editor, Jesse Oxfeld, says the "Gawker Stalker" service is just harmless entertainment. "The vast majority of what we do is to entertain our audience to keep people coming back and reading."
But critics argue this is not entertainment, but a threat to the Hollywood stars' right to privacy.
Entertainment agent Brad Ziefman sees an even more ominous threat. "It opens up channels for fans to find their favorite celebrity and stalk them. It puts them in harm's way; it crosses the lines between public and private."
Even before this website was created, a number of celebrities, including singer Britney Spears, have been forced to take legal action to keep aggressive fans from getting too close.
In rare cases these celebrity obsessions can turn deadly. One of the most famous cases occurred in 1980 when a deranged fan murdered rock star John Lennon in New York City.
Gawker.com's Oxfeld says celebrities' safety concerns are overblown. "I do not think it is a threat to celebrities I think it is people gossiping in a fun and entertaining way."
Oscar winning actor George Clooney is among the Hollywood stars fighting back. He and his friends have inundated Gawker.com with false sightings believing that doing so will make the site virtually "worthless."
Clooney's publicist Stan Rosenfeld supports this effort. "My concern is not for the multitude of fans that want to wish you good luck. My concern is providing information to stalkers."
Fans of the site argue this is simply the price of fame and if the stars do not like it, they can always walk away.
- VOA News
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