Technology, internet, and computer safety
Information for survivors and victims
If you think someone may be monitored your computer, smartphone, or tablet, be careful how you use them since an abuser might become suspicious if you change your patterns of online activity. You may want to continue using the monitored device(s) for innocent activities, like looking up the weather. It might be safer to use a different computer in a public library, Community Technology Center (CTC), office supply store, or at a trusted friend's house to research an escape plan, look for new jobs or apartments, bus tickets, and finding help.
It's NOT SAFE OR CONFIDENTIAL to use e-mail, social media platforms, and most instant messenger chat apps to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call a hotline instead. A growing number of agencies are offering secure online chat through their websites. If you use email or IM, please use a safer computer and an account your abuser does not know about.
Computers, smartphones, and tablets can store a lot of private information about what you look at via the Internet, the emails and instant messages you send, VoIP (e.g. Skype, Google Hangouts) and IP-TTY calls you make, web-based purchases and banking, and many other activities. It is virtually impossible to completely erase all the history or "digital footprints" of your computer or online activities. If you are being monitored, it may be dangerous to change your computer behaviors such as suddenly deleting your entire Internet history if that is not your regular habit.
If you are in danger
- Call 9-1-1,
- Call your local crisis hotline, or
- Call the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline via phone at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or TTY at 1-800-787-3224.
Remember that traditional "corded" phones are more private and less interceptable than cordless phones or analog cell phones.
Be aware you may not be able to reach 9-1-1 using an internet phone or internet-based phone service (Vonage, Skype, etc), so you may need to be prepared to use another phone to call 911.
Contact your local domestic violence program or shelter to learn about free cell phone donation programs.
External links and resources
- Technology Safety & Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors. National Network to End Domestic Violence - Safety Net Project.
- Technical Safety Guide. HeartMob: Powered by Hollaback!
- Reviews.com: Fully Accessible Guide to Smart Home Tech for the Disabled and Elderly
- Internet of Things (IoT) Home Automation: Survivor Privacy Risks & Strategies
- Bowles, Nellie. Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse. The New York Times. 23 June 2018.
- Buni, Catherine and Soraya Chemaly. The Unsafety Net: How Social Media Turned Against Women. The Atlantic. 9 October 2014.
- Huddleston, Jennifer. How 'Internet of Things' Devices Can Help Victims of Domestic Abuse. Mercatus Center: George Mason University. 12 July 2018.
- Lee, Kaofeng. Love Your Technology Wisely. See the Triumph. 27 January 2015.
- Rabinovitch, Maru. How Social Networking Tools Can Be Dangerous for Those Needing Anonymity. The Privacy Association. 8 April 2015.
- Shahani, Aarti. Smartphones Are Used to Stalk, Control Domestic Abuse Victims. NPR.org. 15 September 2014.
- Shahani, Aarti. I Know Where You've Been: Digital Spying And Divorce In The Smartphone Age. NPR.org. 4 January 2018.
For more information about technology-facilitated abuse, cyber-stalking, or integrating tech awareness into safety planning with survivors, contact Jonathan Gates, Communications and Events Coordinator, or Keri Moran-Kuhn, Associate Director at (503) 230-1951.