How and Why to Hide Your Internet Activity:

The Internet is a great resource for finding information that can help you make decisions about your personal situation. However, it’s important to realize that the record of your Internet activities does not disappear when you close your browser. If you are concerned that the person abusing you may check up on your Internet activities, there are a few steps you can take to help you cover your tracks, including deleting cookies and clearing your browser history (your cache).

If the person who is abusing you is good on a computer, it may not be safe for you to be visiting sites for abused women. Hide your Internet activities and visit websites from a safer place – the public library, school, an Internet cafe, or your workplace.

Cookies are a way for websites to track their visitors and their actions. Sometimes this means that the site will “remember” you when you visit again. For example, it may display your first name, which you entered on a previous visit. This is done by storing small bits of information on your computer. It is important to delete cookies when covering your tracks on the Internet. Methods for deleting cookies vary depending on the type of computer you are using.

These tips are important for anyone, but especially if you are dealing with a partner or ex-partner who at any time has:

  • monitored your phone calls
  • stopped you from visiting with your friends or family
  • had his family and friends keep tabs on you
  • become extremely jealous when you’ve seemed interested in other people
  • limited your access to the car and/or tracked the car mileage
  • controlled the family money
  • threatened your safety and/or the safety of the kids
  • hurt or threatened to hurt your pet
  • physically hurt you and/or the kids
  • or if you are being stalked or experiencing harassment in a workplace in which computers are often used

There are ways you can protect yourself. The following suggestions can help you cover your tracks. However, remember that none of these can protect you completely and you may want to use more than one suggestion.

  • Use a computer that people you know don’t have access to. You can go to a public library or community centre and use a computer where other people can’t easily see the screen.
  • Clear your internet browser’s cache and history list to erase information about the websites you’ve visited. Internet Explorer, Modzilla Firefox and Google Chrome are examples of common browsers. The Assaulted Women’s Helpline provides steps on how you can erase your cache and history list, depending on your browser.
  • Be careful about email. You may use a web-based account like Gmail or a program on your computer, such as Microsoft Outlook. Email programs can be set up to download from a web-based account. A password-protected web-based account can help you keep emails secret. If you use an email program on your computer, there are ways to delete emails permanently. But any email can be sent to the wrong person or get redirected or copied without your knowledge. “Keystroke” software can also be installed on your computer to record everything you type. So you may choose to avoid sending emails with information you don’t want others to read.
  • Choose effective passwords for your email account or any action you do online, such as online banking, email and Facebook. Avoid passwords that are easy to guess, such as your name or birthday. Effective passwords are usually longer than 8 characters; use both uppercase and lowercase letters; use numbers and symbols; and don’t include dictionary words or common names. Use different passwords for different online accounts, keep them safe and private and change them every so often. You can use an online “password generator” to create a strong password, such as the one offered by PC Tools. You can also test the strength of your passwords through online tools, such as the one offered by Microsoft.
  • If you contact an organization for help, you can ask about their policies on collecting your information and keeping it private. You can tell them you’re concerned about privacy. It may be safer to call or visit an organization than email them.

Social Media Safety:

Many people and organizations use social media like Facebook and Twitter to communicate. There are specific safety considerations you should know about to maintain your privacy when using social media.

  • Check your Facebook privacy settings to make sure you’re comfortable with the information other people can view about you. Check them often because Facebook won’t always inform you about changes to its privacy features. Lifehacker keeps an up-to-date guide on how to manage your privacy on Facebook. It’s also important to “friend” only people you trust and be careful what you post on other peoples’ pages as comments can be found in Google results.
  • Twitter has information on how to keep your account safe. It’s important to be careful about Tweeting personal information because you may not always know the people who are following your account.
  • Google+ can also be configured to increase your safety and safeguard your information.
  • If you use social media and email on your smartphone, it may keep you logged into your accounts all the time. Consider using a hard-to-guess password to be able to get into your phone. You can also uninstall and remove applications that keep you logged into your accounts.
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