Protecting Yourself in a Digital World
Staying safe and private in a digital world can be difficult. If you are being abused and are worried about your privacy, there are ways you can protect yourself on your computer, email and cell phone.
Computer and Internet Safety
Computers have the ability to store a lot of private information about what websites you visit, any internet-based calls you make, the emails and instant messages you send and any purchases you make. If you use a computer that your abuser can access to find information or reach out for help, you can attempt to cover your tracks by doing the following:
- Use an email account that your abuser cannot access.
- Change your passwords often to protect your privacy and be mindful not to write them down.
- Delete emails and files/documents that you do not want your abuser to find.
- Note: 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. If you have questions about how to save important electronic information, contact us on our 24-Hour Helpline at 425-746-1940 or send us a message on our Get Help page.
- Clear your search engine and browser history, especially after researching domestic violence organizations and programs.
Note: 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 you are being monitored, it may be dangerous to change your computer behavior by suddenly deleting your entire Internet history if you have never done so before. The safest way to find information on the Internet is to use a safe computer that your abuser cannot access – for example at your local library.
Taking steps to protect your personal safety when using email and other electronic communications is important. Your abuser could have access to your email account if:
- You share an email account.
- You use Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora or a similar program to check your email. These programs allow anybody who has access to your computer to read your email.
- You check your email on the Internet.
- You share your password with them.
- You 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.
- You write your password down. If you absolutely must write down a new password the first time you use it, 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, shred it – don’t just toss it in the trash.
Cell Phone Safety
If you use a cell phone, be aware there are numerous ways an abuser can use cell phone technology to overhear your calls or locate you. Use a cell phone only if you do not have access to a regular phone, 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 cellular phone in “silent mode” or “auto answer” can serve as a tracking device. Cell phones now have GPS (Global Positioning System), which is a location-finding feature. If you are fleeing from your abuser, either 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 is capable of making 9-1-1 calls. It is important to know that if the phone you’re using isn’t activated, meaning there isn’t a phone number assigned to it, and you’re disconnected from the 9-1-1 dispatch center, you must call 9-1-1 back.
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 on our Get Help page.