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Internet Safety

Are you worried about someone knowing you have visited this website? 

Computers store all the documents you work on and the addresses of all the websites you visit on the internet. It’s impossible to completely delete this information.  It is fairly easy for someone with even just a little computer know-how to access your computer files and history. 

If you are worried someone is monitoring your online activities, here are some tips to help you stay safe online:

  • Avoid using email, chats, messaging – or phone texting – to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. Please call our hotline at 1.800.863.9909 instead. Avoid using your home computer for anything that might put you in danger or raise suspicion.  
  • If you want to look up important information, use a safe computer – at a library, a friend’s house, a community college – one you’re sure your abuser does not have access to. If you’re planning to leave and go to your sister’s home in Vermont, for instance, don’t use your home computer to check the bus schedule.
  • By all means, clear your history and empty your cache, but remember…you can never completely hide your tracks, so use a safe computer – or no computer – whenever possible. 

If you’re worried about your social networking sites, here are some things to consider…

The use of online social networking sites is increasingly common, and while existing sites grow and change, new sites and new features are coming up all the time.  With the use of social networking sites, like Facebook, it is important to know the risks, as well as the realities relating to your safety and privacy online.

Social Networking Sites:  An abuser can use social networks to stalk, harass and gain information about a former or current partner.

  • Social networks do not show record of who looks at your page when, which parts of your page, for how long, etc., therefore it is possible for someone to monitor your page without your knowledge.
  • An abuser may impersonate a victim with a new page or by hijacking the victim’s page.
  • Abusers may “friend” (Facebook & MySpace) their victim’s friends and family and gain at least some level of access to personal information.
  • An abuser may be able to find a partner or former partner’s profile and/or other information through search engines.

GPS and other Location-Based Social Networking Systems:  These programs, which are run through cell phones, on Facebook, etc., allow a person to “check-in” at locations; this reveals current location information to anyone connected with that person in their social network.

  • Facebook Places: allows the owner of an account or a friend to check-in and give current location information; privacy settings can be customized to prevent this!
  • Geotagging Photos: pictures taken on smartphones (iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, etc.) may have location information automatically embedded in the data of the phone based on the phone’s GPS.  Whether this information is displayed varies depending on which site it is posted.  This can be turned off on all phones!

Spyware:  Can be installed on a computer either physically in-person or remotely through an email, instant message or other download; this can give the person who installed the Spyware information about passwords for social networks and any other accounts accessed online.

Remember, NOTHING posted online through a social networking site or blog is going to be completely private.  Therefore, survivors must weigh the cost/ benefits when choosing where and how to use social networks!

However, privacy settings can be made more secure.

Print step-by-step directions to change Facebook privacy settings to…
…notify the user of account activity from a new or unknown computer or mobile device
…block profile accessibility for creators of applications and games
…disable search options, and more

Awareness is key!  There may be more information “public” online about you than you would imagine.  Try searching your name on Google, Bing or another search engine, and see what comes up!

Some Tips:

  • Google Yourself.
  • On Facebook, periodically view ‘Photos of Me’ to see what is there.
  • As Facebook grows and changes, the default privacy settings may change.  It’s a good idea to 1. pay attention to news stories or updates from Facebook regarding updates and changes to learn how that may affect privacy settings, and 2. periodically check your settings.  The same goes for other the privacy policies on other social networking sites.
  • Visit icanstalku.com for valuable information about privacy settings around photos and how to disable Geotagging on smartphones.
  • Talk to your kids about all internet use; including major social networking sites.
  • Be thoughtful about what you’re posting, privacy settings and whose “friendship” you accept/ who you connect with online.
  • Set unique passwords and security questions.

If someone is impersonating, monitoring or otherwise harassing you online there are options for recourse:

  • Reporting inappropriate or false content/ pages to the site owner may result in the removal of the content or page if it violates terms of use.
  • Most sites have a process for users if your account is compromised.
  • If reporting to law enforcement: save/ print messages, posts, etc. for documentation, in addition, take a screen shot.
  • Law Enforcement can contact site personnel and send preservation letters to prevent evidence from being deleted with the request that the owner of the account not be notified that their account is under investigation.
  • Misuse of online spaces may be a violation of a Protection From Abuse order (PFA) or could be included in an application for a PFA.

Download the PDF to print a copy of these Risks, Privacy Tips, including instructions to change settings, and Safety Planning Tips.

For more information on this topic, visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and WiredSafety.

Content on this page used with permission from Caring Unlimited, York County’s Domestic Violence Program