How safe do you feel online?
In a recent study for the Pew Research Center, 70% of women saw online harassment as a major problem. However, very few knew how to prevent it happening.
The issue of virtual trolls, stalkers and online harassment becomes particularly pertinent when it’s directed at soon-to-be-ex-partners during divorce proceedings or family disputes. In this regard, men are just as much at risk as women.
So, how can you protect yourself whilst still enjoying being connected online? Our Director Rita Gupta gave five suggestions in our recent video (link) on how to communicate with your ex, including keeping information secure.
In this article we expand on Rita’s good advice to help you feel safer online, and keep private information private.
THINK before you post
The best advice we can give is; stop and think before posting anything. If your partner has upset or annoyed you, don’t immediately reach for your smart phone and post about it. Remember that anything you post could be shown or sent to your soon-to-be-ex within minutes.
Social media is not the place for a public argument about private issues. Stay calm, focused, and only post what you are happy for people to read days, weeks or even years later. Also, do be aware that these posts sometimes end up before the court!
Check your social media settings
All social media sites have privacy settings. Change these to ensure your posts are only shown to people you want to see them.
In Twitter, strengthen your tweets to “protected” level. This ensures only approved followers can view them, and that nobody will be able to retweet.
In your Facebook Privacy settings, you can:
- Restrict the people who see your posts
- Exclude specific people from viewing your posts
- Control who is allowed to post on your wall
- Prevent people from tagging you in photographs
- Turn off geotagging to keep your current location secret
Use a Restricted list
You probably have friends (and Friends) that you don’t necessarily want to see all your posts. However, they might be offended if you publicly block them. In Facebook, you can put people on a restricted list. This means they’ll still be listed as a friend, but will only see information that you opt to show publicly.
Use secure passwords and two-level login
Most people access their social media using their regular email and a password. If you think your ex-partner knows this password, (or could easily guess it) change it to one that contains capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. There is a free secure password generator at LastPass.
Where available, also enable two-stage login, also known as login verification. This sends a text to your mobile containing a code that you have to enter before you can log into your account.
Have more than one social media account
If you want to keep public and private posts truly apart, then set up two Twitter profiles, one for yourself, and one for work or for public discussions. Keep personal details on this second account to an absolute minimum to avoid revealing sensitive information such as where you live or where you are.
Use more than one email
In our video, Rita suggests you create a new email account that keeps private and confidential data separate from a known personal email, or your work email. It’s simple to set yourself up with a free email account at Google, which also offers secure two-stage login security (see above). This is particularly good on contact matters.
We know where you’ve been
If you have the Facebook installed on your phone, the app knows precisely where you have been. This information is not public, but anyone who has access to your smart phone can log in and find it. We were shocked to find that the logs (records) of places visited could go back years. For details on how to delete this log and ensure Facebook cannot track your location, see this guide.
Careful with photos
Be mindful whenever you take any photo using your phone, and what photos others are taking of you too. If you post your photos online, make sure there is no identifying data in publicly shared pictures such as your house number, security arrangements in your home, car registration, or the faces of young children.
Where do you store your photos?
Your phone might be set to automatically store your photos in the cloud. This makes them more vulnerable to online access if someone knows your password. Rather than not back up your photos at all, log into your photo backup account and delete just those that you are not happy to have online.
Family accounts and information sharing
You may have set up various accounts and apps that allow you and your family to share information. Apple’s own Family Sharing, for example, allows you to share information, downloads and apps with up to five family members. This means information is synced across everyone’s phone, and alerts sent when information is added or changed.
Unless you change the settings, everyone in the family including your partner can:
- See what apps you have downloaded
- View photos and videos uploaded to the shared album on their own phone
- Change or delete important meetings on your Calendar
- Send you a Reminder – or cancel them
And most concerning of all:
- See where each family member is located on a map in real time
For more details, see Apple
Dating apps and sexting
As family lawyers, we would advise clients not to join dating apps, or engage in any sexting or similar behaviour before or during divorce proceedings. This isn’t a moral judgement, but a practical suggestion to keep opportunities for your ex to ‘get back at you’ to a minimum. You never know where that picture, text or video might be shared, or be posted.
LGFL and confidentiality
At LGFL, we do everything we can to ensure your privacy, as Director Anne Leiper explains in our latest video. Both our offices offer convenience and discretion by being part of a business community. So nobody knows which business you are coming to visit, even if you’ve accidentally left geo-tagging on your phone or iPad.
LGFL and you
If you would like to discuss your family law matter in complete confidence, call us for a free 30-minute consultation. You can enjoy the peace and privacy of our discreet countryside location at Citibase Swallowfield, or pop into Spaces Reading to our exclusive use office at a time to suit you during your working day.
More information on keeping safe online
We were inspired to write our own article after reading the excellent and highly detailed article, “The Empowering Internet Safety Guide for Women”.
It highlights many more issues than we have space for here, including harassment at work and ridesharing app safety. We truly recommend it to anyone, male or female, who wants to take control and protect their privacy online.
LGFL – listening with empathy