Personal Privacy And Safety When Online

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded


Computer use can be monitored and an abuser may be able to see what websites the victim is viewing, including domestic violence advocacy sites and legal information sites like Iowa Legal Aid’s website. If you are afraid your Internet usage might be monitored, you should call the Iowa Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-942-0333 or use a computer that the abuser would not be able to monitor. 
Security and Monitoring:
  • It is very important for victim/survivors to keep the security on the computer up to date to minimize the risk of monitoring. It is just as important to understand that these security devices do not eliminate the possibility of monitoring. 
  • Wireless networks are not always secure. If you are using the Internet on an unsecured network--an unlocked network that is accessible by anyone--your account information and use can be identified and accessible by other people using the network. 
  • If you are concerned that your computer activity is being monitored, you may want to use a computer your abuser does not have access to. Use a “safer” computer--one from a local library or a local agency or service provider.
  • It is impossible to completely erase your email or computer history. Although many services claim to wipe a computer’s history so your activity on it cannot be monitored, it is impossible to fully erase the activity history. These services can offer a false sense of security.
  • Although you can delete your Internet browsing history, it is impossible to fully erase your activity history. Also, an abuser may be suspicious if the computer you share has a deleted browsing history.
  • The term “spyware” refers to computer monitoring software. Spyware is a program purposely put on someone’s computer by another person to monitor activity. You can download software making it possible to detect some spyware, but not all. If you think your computer may have spyware, discontinue use until you can have your computer checked. Consult a computer professional or run a computer program to detect spyware, such as SpyBot.
  • You should check to see if the camera is enabled on your computer. An abuser can monitor a victim by triggering the camera to turn on when the computer is turned on.
Password Rules: 
  • Passwords for email, Facebook, or other online systems should not be shared with anyone, and certainly not with an abusive partner.  
  • Avoid using easy passwords that the abuser could guess. Change your passwords regularly.
  • Do not save your username and password for easy logging in. Log out after you are done using the program. 
  • If you have shared passwords, be sure to change them immediately.
  • Emails are not a confidential way to communicate about anything. This is important to know if the topic concerns violence. An abuser could be monitoring computer activity.
  • Never open attachments from unknown sources and be cautious about requests for information. 
  • Since knowing the survivor’s email address can help an abuser harass and possibly locate a victim, it’s important that mutual friends and family remain cautious when using email to communicate with a victim. Using the BCC (blind carbon copy) option on email allows forwards to be sent without everyone seeing who it was sent to. 
  • Open a new email account on a “safer” computer and then only check that account from a “safer” computer that should not be monitored by the abuser.
Social Networks:
  • Today, almost everyone is using social networks, including victims, survivors, and abusers. Social networks include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Tumblr, to name a few. 
  • Many users do not understand or utilize all of the privacy options of the social networking site they are using. If you do not have your privacy options set it is possible that some or all of your information can be obtained through an Internet search. Check your privacy settings.
  • Follow the password rules described earlier if you use social networks. 
  • Information posted on social networks can be used in court cases, so it is very important to be cautious about what you post. 
Last review 12/6/13
Last Review and Update: Sep 24, 2020

Contacting the LiveHelp service...