Technology Safety / eSafety

Technology is wonderful thing. Can you imagine what you’d do without your cellphone now, or your computer, email, text messaging, MP3 player or all the other devices we now use every day? Most people use technology harmlessly to stay in touch but sometimes partners use technology to keep tabs & spy on their partners. Here are some things to know and to keep in mind about how these things can be misused.

Your Computer

First, if you suspect your partner is monitoring your computer use – they are. They can easily monitor what you do by installing spyware, keystroke loggers, worms & others that keep a record of everything that happens on the computer. Most of these programs were intended to help parents keep tabs on their children's internet use, but they can be misused to spy on anyone. If you have or find one of these on your PC, it may be dangerous to uninstall it. Another way to protect your privacy is to always empty the "Recycle" or "Trash Bin" of any documents before shutting down the computer. If you have never done this in the past, though, it may be dangerous to all of a sudden start deleting things. In this case, you will be better off using a public computer. Remember that any sudden or unusual action that may trigger suspicion and could compromise your safety.  You will want to use a different, public, computer when you do things such as look at sites like this one or other resources to look for somewhere else to live or apply for jobs or just to get information. Places with public-access computers include your local public library.

The Internet

If you didn’t already know - your web browser actually keeps track of a lot of information from every webpage that you visit. There are 3 kinds of information that your web browser keeps: the “history”, or address of the site visited, a “cookie” which is a piece or pieces of information that the site leaves on your computer and “temporary internet files”. Even though this information cannot be completely erased from your computer, clearing your browser's "history" or “cache”, including cookies & temporary internet files is an easy way to increase your privacy. Refer to your browsers “Help” menu or call a computer repair company for further information.

E-mail and Instant Messaging

If you and your partner access the same e-mail account, they are able to read your incoming and outgoing mail, even if you delete it. We strongly advise that you sign up for a free email account on public sites like Google, Yahoo, Hotmail or others. You should set up and only use this account at public computers so your partner won’t know you have it and set it up such that it does not contain any identifying information about you (if someone saw/heard the email address, they would not think of/know it was you). When you set up this separate email account - make sure you choose a password that your partner will not be able to guess and change it every 30 days. Also make a habit of immediately responding to then deleting all e-mails from your e-mail account, which may include the Sent Items, Outbox, Inbox, Deleted Items and Drafts. Try not to use Instant Messaging services through these provides – IM is NOT secure, conversations can be stored & recalled. Do not put anything you wouldn’t want your partner to see in Email or IM. Call our Crisis Line at 937-498-7261 from a secure location to talk about your situation safely.

Your Home Phone and Cell Phone

Be aware that your partner may be able to find out who you've called and who has called you by checking your missed/received/dialed call logs and even if you clear them - they may be checking your phone bill. If possible, get a P.O. Box so that your cell phone bill can be sent directly to you or go paperless and receive your bills and pay them via the internet. If you are concerned about your safety and privacy, keep change for a pay phone; otherwise New Choices is proud to participate in the HopeLine program from Verizon Wireless, which lends anonymous cell phones to survivors of domestic violence. Please contact us for more information.

If you are using a cell phone provided by the abusive person, if you can safely, turn it off when it’s not in use. Many phones let you lock the keys so a phone won’t automatically answer or call if it is bumped. Cell phones may also be equipped with GPS location service, which would allow your partner to track you wherever you went while carrying the cell phone. When your phone is on, check its settings to see if it has an optional location service and take security measures to protect your privacy, safely, don’t change anything your partner checks on.

Your Car & Travel

Sometimes partners 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 as well if your partner is constantly aware of where you’ve been.

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 that publishes the white-pages and your telephone company. If you’ve gotten a P.O. Box  - never give out your street 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.

Also do a Google or Yahoo search on yourself, by searching "Your Full Name" in parentheses (example “New Choices, Inc” - see what comes up, and contact the owners of any pages that provide private information about you through their Contact Us or About Us sections to get your information removed.

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