In a world that has been becoming increasingly more reliant on technology, it’s important to remember that safety should always be a priority.
Particularly since the on-set of COVID-19, much of our lives depend on our devices, including ordering groceries, calling friends and family, streaming shows, spending time on Google, or scrolling through social media.
Although these are all great ways to entertain ourselves and connect with our loved ones, it also opens up new ways of tracking your movements, controlling your bank accounts, monitoring your conversations, and more. While there are also great apps to help us remain safe (like The Circle of Six app, check it out where you download your apps!), you should be aware of how technology can be used against you and what to do if you have suspicions.
1. Stored Data
Our devices store a lot of private information about what you view online. Your history shows what you’ve searched for, websites you’ve visited, what you post on social media, that sweater you bought, and your email correspondence. If somebody has access to your mobile device, tablet, or computer, they could have access to all of that information.
You should know your privacy settings on each individual device. You can also erase your history and saved cookies (often times located in settings), which would erase that data from easy access. Even once your history is erased, it is possible to still find your past online usage, but it takes some extreme tech skills. For most people, even those that have a fairly well rounded understanding of computers, it should create the necessary roadblock.
2. Saved passwords
We know it’s handy to click “Save my password” when logging into your bank account, but what if your abuser logs in and gains control of your account? Those saved passwords create easy access for abusers to get into a plethora of accounts.
Make sure to change your passwords frequently. You can also set up a new email address that they aren’t aware of, and connect your online accounts to it. It can even be helpful to attach your new email address to a fake name.
3. Limit the amount of information you give out online
The less information that’s out on the internet, the less amount there is for somebody to find and use against you. Protect your private information such as address, credit card numbers, your schedule, etc. by only giving it out in necessary circumstances.
4. GPS Tracker/Location Services
If you’ve ever ordered an Uber, you probably watched the driver as they got close to your house. You could see every turn and stop they made. If you aren’t watching your settings, you could be allowing your abuser to do the same thing to you.
Make sure to check your location services settings on your devices, especially phones. Some phones have “share my location” settings or apps that can be installed that will allow your GPS location to be sent to whomever is on the other end. If you aren’t sure what your location settings are set to, you can go to your phone provider or local tech store (like Best Buy or a local shop) and they should be able to point you in the right direction.
5. Web Cameras/Listening Devices
Communication is one of the great things about technology. However, it can easily be turned into an avenue to monitor and control. Webcams can be hacked into and used to monitor the person/room in front of it. We suggest putting a piece of duct or painters tape across the webcam when not in use.
Recording devices or listening devices can also be used to listen to conversations. If you are noticing that your abuser knows information that they shouldn’t, think about where you last talked about that information. Did you have a specific device, were you in a certain room, or were you doing something out of the ordinary? Those may all give you clues to where and how they are listening.
6. Remember the Cloud
The iCloud can be a great thing, allowing us to seamlessly connect across our devices. However, consider you are texting with a friend about your partner. You may think your messages are secure because you are reading them on your phone and he/she is in the other room, but what if your iPad was sitting in there, displaying every message you sent and received? This can happen even if the two devices are in different locations.
You can check which devices your iCloud is being shared on in the settings of iCloud. The Apple store or Apple Support should also be able to provide you with instructions to access and delete those devices.
If you think you are being monitored
- Change passwords and usernames
- Look for patterns
- Check your devices & settings
- Get a new device
- Protect your location
- Consider cameras and audio devices
- Document/Report Incidents
Don’t just stop using those devices! This may trigger your abuser and escalate violence. Instead, continue to use those devices for activities that won’t escalate violence, while finding a safe device to log into accounts, access email, and communicate with people to get help.