In a highly-connected world of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok, family locators and smart phones, the reality of being tracked with every move you make is all too real. This is even more real for victims of domestic violence who as part of their safety planning must and should consider technology safety. The goal of this article is to identify tech safety tips that can help prevent abusers from accessing victim accounts, tracking victim locations, and monitoring victim devices. While this post is a good starting point for recently separated victims, we caution our readers that this list is not all-exhaustive and strongly suggest that any victim speak with a trained domestic-violence advocate about safety planning and other available resources to assist with leaving an abusive relationship.
1. Implement All Safety Tips From a New Computer and Delete your Browsing History
It is strongly suggested that the implementation of these safety tips occurs by utilizing a trusted computer of a family member or friend. If a family member or friend cannot help implement these tips, then it is suggested that the victim utilize a computer at a local public library or community center. In addition, if an individual is reaching out for help or resources, including visiting websites that contain safety planning resources, utilizing a different computer is essential.
Individuals should also get in the habit of deleting their browsing history, which can be done from any Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge or Safari browser. In addition, you can initiate a private mode in Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge or Safari browsers.
Finally, if you are protecting your computer and browsing history, you should be staying safe on your cell phone as well. Make sure you are aware of all applications (“apps”) that are downloaded on your phone. An unknown application could be a monitoring program that was installed without your knowledge or consent. New York City has Family Justice Centers which assist individuals with a phone security check. Additionally, you could restore your phone to factory settings in order to remove any installed monitoring programs.
2. Change all Passwords, PINS, and Security Questions
All passwords, PIN numbers and security questions should be changed including those for your Wi-Fi account. Make sure that you use multiple passwords instead of the same password for all accounts. Also, with security questions it might be best to have random answers or to mix up answers. For instance, if the question asks for your childhood best friend instead of putting your childhood best friend’s name, you should list the name of your favorite band. Then, when the question is asked for the name of your favorite band, you can list the name of your childhood best friend. Either way, be mindful of the answers you select.
Touch ID features to lock your devices can be helpful as they make it harder for someone to access your accounts or install a tracking program without your knowledge.
3. Create New Email Accounts, Turn off Location Sharing and Turn off Bluetooth
If leaving a relationship will result in interaction with the legal system, new email accounts should utilized. One email should be for all legal related matters and should be provided to the Court system and your attorney for service of court documents. There should also be a second account used for all other non-law related purposes. You should never leave your email account logged-in on any device.
Access the settings of your smartphone and turn off location sharing. You can also utilize airplane mode or turn off your phone if you will be accessing a location where you are seeking safety.
Finally, you should not connect your device to Bluetooth as it can cause your calls to be intercepted. You should only have Bluetooth on when you need to connect to another device, like a printer or hands free in your car. Be mindful of automatic connections via Bluetooth.
4. Secure Your Cell Phone
If you do not purchase a new cell phone, make sure that your wireless carrier account is completely secure. Your online carrier account has access to your call and text logs and may provide access to email or social media accounts, Google Play, Apple App Store or iCloud accounts. As indicated above, you should change all passwords, PINS and security questions to secure your cell phone.
5. Be Vigilant for Electronic Devices
Cameras, audio devices and trackers can be added to everyday items. Do not accept toys or items from your abuser.
This article incorporates and relies on data made available from the New York City Domestic Violence Hope Project, which is available at NYC Domestic Violence Hope Project .
Marissa Pullano focuses her practice on all aspects of matrimonial and family law, including contested proceedings regarding the equitable distribution of substantial real property and assets, child support and spousal maintenance, paternity, custody and access, and order modification and enforcement. Marissa believes that all clients deserve significant attention as they navigate the court system. She strives to achieve resolutions that minimize conflict, but acts as a zealous advocate on behalf of her clients in the courtroom when litigation cannot be avoided. She can be reached at email@example.com or (516) 393-8297.