Older woman at home using a laptop computerProtecting Your Digital World

Staying safe and private in the digital world can be difficult. If you’re experiencing abuse or are worried about your privacy, there are things you can do to making using your computer, email, or cell phone safer.

Computer and internet safety

Computers store a lot of private information about your activity, including the websites you visit, the internet-based calls you make, the emails and instant messages you send, and the purchases you make. If you use a computer that your abuser can access, you can try to cover your tracks by:

  • using an email account that your abuser cannot access
  • changing your passwords and user names often
  • keeping your passwords hidden
  • deleting private emails, files, and documents and making sure they’re not in your email trash or computer recycle bin
  • clearing your search engine and browser history, especially after researching domestic violence organizations and programs
  • using search engines that don’t track your history like Google incognito or Safari private mode

Before deleting any private, important, or sensitive documents in your email or on your computer, we encourage you to save them in case you need to access them in the future.

Digital footprints

It is not possible to completely delete or clear all the “footprints” from your computer or online activity. Clearing your browser history will make it more difficult, but NOT impossible for someone to trace your computer use. If your abuser is monitoring your behavior, it may be dangerous to change your computer behavior by suddenly deleting your entire internet history. The safest way to find information online is to use a secure computer that your abuser cannot access – for example, at your local library.

Email safety

It is essential to take steps to protect your personal safety when you use email and other electronic communications. Your abuser could have access to your email account if you:

  • Share your password.
  • Share an email account.
  • Check your email online.
  • Use Outlook or a similar program to check your email. These programs allow anybody who has access to your computer to read your email.
  • Say “yes” when your browser asks you if you’d like to save your password. Although it’s convenient, it’s not a good idea – especially when the computer you are using is shared.
  • Write your password down. If you absolutely must write down a new password, be sure you keep it in a very safe, hidden place – not on a sticky note stuck to your computer or your desk. Once you’ve memorized it, destroy it – don’t just toss it in the trash.

Cell phone safety

If you use a cell phone, there are numerous ways an abuser can use technology to overhear your calls or locate you. Use a cell phone only if you do not have access to a landline, and make sure that you do not give any identifying details on a cell phone. If your abuser works for a phone company or law enforcement agency, use extreme caution and discuss cell phone safety with a domestic violence advocate.

A cell phone in “silent mode” or “auto answer” can serve as a tracking device. Cell phones have GPS, which is a location-finding feature. If you are fleeing your abuser, turn off your cell phone or leave it with a trusted friend or family member.

Wireless carriers are required to complete 9-1-1 calls, even when a phone is not activated. Any phone that turns on and receives a signal can make a 9-1-1 call. If the phone you’re using isn’t activated, meaning there isn’t a phone number assigned to it, and you get disconnected from the 9-1-1 dispatcher, you must call 9-1-1 again.

If you are concerned about your internet, email, or cell phone safety, call our 24-Hour Helpline at 425-746-1940 or send us a message.