Technology is a wonderful thing. Most people don’t use technology as a form of control, but sometimes abusers use technology to monitor their partners. Here are some things to keep in mind if you believe your partner may be trying to control or spy on you with technology. For more information on technology safety, visit the technology page of the NNEDV.
Safe Computer Use
If an abuser has access to your computer, they can monitor what you do by installing programs that keep a record of everything that happens on the computer. The most common form of computer monitoring is the use of a program called a key-logger, which records everything you type. These programs are targeted towards parents worried about their children’s internet use, but they can also be misused to spy on adults. However, if you uninstall the program, the person who installed it will probably find out. It may be safer to simply use a different computer when you look for help or a new place to live, for example. It may be safest to use a computer at a public library, community center, or Internet café.
An easy way to increase your privacy is to always empty the “Recycle” or “Trash Bin” of any documents before shutting down the computer. Make this a regular routine so it is not an unusual action that may trigger suspicion.
Safe Web Browsing
Your web browser keeps a record of every webpage that you visit. While this cannot be completely erased from your computer, clearing your browser’s “history” is an easy way to increase your privacy.
How to clear your history and caches (these instructions may be outdated as browsers update. Please google “how to clear your history and caches for X browser” for updates info. Do this on a computer that your partner is not monitoring, like the library.)
Netscape Communicator/Navigator 6.0 for Windows:
Pull down Edit menu, select Preferences. Click on Navigator and choose Clear History. Click on Advanced, then select Cache. Click on “Clear Disk Cache.” Click the “Clear Memory Cache.” Click OK.
Mozilla and Netscape for Mac and Linux:
From the Menu, select “Edit” and choose “Preferences.” OS X Customers: select “Mozilla” and choose “Preferences.” In the window that opens, you will see a list of triangles and topics. Click the triangle next to “Advanced” and then select “Cache.” From here, click the “Clear Disk Cache” and “Clear Memory Cache” buttons. Select “OK”.
Internet Explorer for Windows:
Pull down Tools menu, select Internet Options. On General page, under Temporary Internet Files, click on “Delete Files.” Under History click on “Clear History.”
Internet Explorer 5 for Mac OS X:
Click the ‘Explorer’ menu on your browser. Select “Preferences.” Choose “Advanced” from the “Web browser” heading on the left side. In the “Cache” section, click the “Empty Now” button. Click “OK.”
AOL for Windows:
Pull down Members menu, select Preferences. Click on WWW icon. Then select Advanced. Purge Cache. The AOL search engine also retains and displays past searches. Searches can be cleared on the Web Matches pages. Hit the Clear All icon under Recent Search History. The listing of recent searches can be disabled by hitting the Turn Off icon under Recent Search History.
AOL for Mac:
Click Members. Click Preferences. Scroll down to Web. Click Empty Cache. The AOL search engine also retains and displays past searches. Searches can be cleared on the Web Matches pages. Hit the Clear All icon under Recent Search History. The listing of recent searches can be disabled by hitting the Turn Off icon under Recent Search History.
Firefox for Windows:
Pull down Tools menu, select “Clear Private Data.” Select all of the options and push “Clear Private Data Now.” Additionally, you can change your privacy options by pulling down the Tools menu, and selecting “Options.” Go to the section on Privacy, and uncheck some of the boxes, like “Remember visited pages” and “Remember what I’ve downloaded.” You may want to check “Always clear my private data.”
If an abuser has access to your e-mail account, they may be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail. If you believe your account is secure then make sure you choose a password that your partner will not be able to guess and change it often.
If you believe your account is not secure, get a new, free e-mail address at hotmail.com, yahoo.com, or other free e-mail sites. Only use this e-mail address at public computers, such as computers at the public library, if you don’t want your partner to know you have it. Make sure the e-mail address does not contain information that may identify you; for example, use email@example.com rather than firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make it a habit of deleting e-mails from the “Send” or “Outbox” in addition to your “Inbox” and then also delete the e-mails from the “Deleted Items” folder. In gmail, delete email from All Mail.
Safe Calling and Mail
Be aware that your partner may be able to find out who you’ve called and who has called you by checking your phone bill. If possible, get a PO Box or work with Safe at Home’s confidential mail-forwarding program so that your cell phone bill can be sent directly to you. If you are concerned about your safety and privacy, keep change for a pay phone. You can also contact your local hotline program to learn about donation programs that provide new cell phones and/or prepaid phone cards to survivors of abuse.
If you are using a cell phone provided by the abusive person, consider turning it off when not in use. Also many phones let you “lock” the keys so a phone won’t automatically answer or call if it is bumped. When on, check the phone settings; if your phone has an optional location service, you may want to switch the location feature off/on via phone settings or by turning your phone on and off.
Safety with Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter
Social networking sites, like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, are very easy ways for someone to get information about you, for example by monitoring who sends you messages and who your friends are. Review and update your account information frequently and make sure to change your password periodically. Use the privacy controls offered by these sites to restrict access to your page. The Center is not affiliated with Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or any other social networking site, so if you have questions or concerns about privacy settings, you will need to contact them directly.
How to set privacy settings (these change periodically by the sites, so please link directly to their sites to learn about how to change the privacy settings:
Log into your account. Click on the privacy icon in the top right hand corner of the page. On the main privacy settings page, you can block specific users from seeing your profile or only allow them to see part of it. Here you can also control how your page can be found on Facebook and other search engines. In the “Timeline and Tagging” section, you can control who can see which aspects of your page. Be aware that if you poke, friend, or send a message to someone, they can see your profile!
For tips and more information, see the Facebook Safety Center.
Start by making sure you are logged in. Click on “Home” in the top navigation menu from any MySpace web page. Click on “Account Settings.” Click “Privacy Settings.” Make your selections on this page. Click “Change Settings.”
Log in and go to your privacy and safety settings. Scroll to the Tweet privacy section and click the box next to “Protect my Tweets.” This will ensure that only your approved followers can see your tweets, although be aware that any tweets made before this setting change may still be viewable on the internet. In addition Twitter has a policy that prevents banned accounts from making a new one and stops an account that has banned you from mentioning you. When searching twitter click on the vertical three dots on the right hand side of the bar to enable safe search mode which filters out sensitive content as well as content from accounts that you have muted or banned.
Do not store your passwords, even if your browser has this capability. Change your passwords often, and use different passwords for different sites and accounts. Do not use obvious passwords, such as your birthday or your pet’s name. Use passwords that include both letters and numbers so that they are harder for someone to guess.
Sometimes abusers use a global positioning system (GPS) device to monitor their partner’s whereabouts. GPS trackers are marketed towards parents so that they can keep track of their children when they leave the house, but these legal devices can be misused to spy on other adults. These trackers can be placed on cars, cell phones, in purses, or other objects you frequently take with you or move around in. Be aware of this possibility.
Safe Online Information
Ask agencies how they protect or publish your records and request that court, government, post office and others seal or restrict access to your files to protect your safety.
Most places automatically publish the phone numbers and addresses of people living in the area, through the local white-pages. These white-pages are now often online, so that anyone can access that information, even if they do not live in the area. You can find out how to restrict this information by calling the company which publishes the white-pages and your telephone company. You may consider getting a P.O. Box and not giving out your real address. When asked by businesses, doctors, and others for your address, have the P.O. Box address or a safer address to give them. Try to keep your true residential address out of national databases.
Do a Google or Yahoo search on yourself, by searching “Your Full Name” in parentheses. See what comes up, and take steps to change any pages that provide private information about you.
Some information adapted from: partnersforpeaceme.org, myspace.com, loveisrespect.org, National Network to End Domestic Violence, nnedv.org.