Technology safety is a very important issue in the domestic violence community. Technological advances have great benefits but there are also drawbacks and caution must be used, especially when communicating online. People often don’t realize that the information they post online may reveal more about themselves than they intend. We sat down with an expert in the field to get insight and tips on safety. The following is our short question and answer session:
Where did you learn about online safety?
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) provides a great training program called Safety Net: the National Safe and Strategic Technology Project. Safety Net educates victims, their advocates and the general public on ways to use technology strategically to help find safety and escape domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking.
What advice do you have about internet browsing safety?
The most important thing to remember is to use a safe computer, one that the abuser has absolutely no access to. You can use a computer at the public library, at a friend’s place, a local internet cafe, etc. The reason for this is that everything you do on a computer can be tracked. Clearing the browsing history is not enough of a precaution because abusers can install spyware on your computer to track your usage even if they no longer have physical access to the computer.
What are some best practices for communicating safely online in regards to disclosure of personal information?
It is always best to disclose as little as possible online. You never know who may be reading what you write. Do not write anything you would not want an abuser to know. Think before sharing any information about yourself or others that can identify you, including names, specific locations, or any other unique personal information. It is also important to understand that email is not a secure form of communication; it can be tracked. Sending emails should be treated in the same manner you would treat sending postcards, they can end up anywhere and anyone can read them.
What are some other general tips you would like to share?
The following are some general tips provided by NNEDV:
Trust your instincts: If you suspect an abusive person knows too much, it is possible that your phone, computer, email or other activities are being monitored.
Create a new email account: If you suspect that anyone abusive can access your email, consider creating an additional email account on a safer computer. Do not create or check this new email from a computer your abuser could access, in case it is monitored.
Change passwords and pin numbers: Some abusers use victim’s email and other accounts to impersonate and cause harm. If anyone abusive knows or may guess your passwords, change them quickly and frequently.
Use a donated or new cell phone: When making or receiving private calls or arranging escape plans, try not to use a shared or family cell phone because cell phone bill records and phone logs might reveal your plans to an abuser.