Technology Safety Planning
The following information was taken from "Safety Planning Around Technology", a guide for survivors of domestic violence or dating violence which was adapted by WESNET with the permission of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
What is stalking?
Repeated or unwanted behaviour from an individual that is harassing, intimidating, or threatening.
Stalking is most common in intimate partner relationships. Many times there will be an increase in stalking behaviour after leaving a controlling relationship. Stalking is common during periods of separation and often increases in intensity and frequency. Ex-partner stalkers are more persistent and dangerous than stranger stalkers.
What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking, like traditional forms of stalking, involves persistent behaviours that instil apprehension and fear. With the advent of new technologies, stalking has taken on new forms through mediums such as email and social media. This has become known as cyberstalking.
- Take all threats seriously whether they are verbal or text.
- Limit communication with the stalker and restrict responses to messages, calls and social networking posts to those required by court order (e.g Family Court).
- Keep a separate email account for communication regarding legal matters such as child residency and contact, and other communication with the stalker.
- Use passwords on all devices. Keep passwords secret and change them often.
- If your computer has a webcam learn how it works and how to turn it off. These devices can be accessed remotely. Use tape to cover the lens when you are not using the camera.
- Use internet-based phone services like Google Voice or Skype to create a new phone number for texting or phone calls.
- Use a safer computer such as a public computer of a trusted family member or friend to access your email.
Safety strategies for phone technology
- Lock your keypad with a password
- Turn off Bluetooth on your phone so calls cannot be intercepted. Set your phone to hidden as your phone can be hijacked and your data can be stolen via Bluetooth technology.
- Beware of Caller ID spoofing for phone calls and text messages. Caller ID spoofing is a service allowing a caller to change the caller ID display on a recipient's phone to any number.
- Always confirm the sender of a text message.
- Talk to your children about the above information (if age appropriate). Check your children's phones, change passwords if necessary or you may need to take the phone until it is safe for them to have it back.
- If a parenting plan is in place, talk to your children about how and when the other parent is allowed to communicate with them. If a child receives unallowable, harassing or threatening messages or calls, instruct them to save the messages or call history.
- Do not use apps that tell your friends where you are or check you in.
- Disable the location services in any camera apps and your mobile settings.
- Buy a cheap mobile to make private calls and pre-program any emergency numbers you may need including your trusted friends' numbers, police, 1800 respect – domestic violence help service, Link2Home (accommodation helpline) and other 24hr referral services.
If you are receiving harassing calls, texts or voice messages, this can serve as evidence in court.
Save all harassing or threatening text or voice messages on the phone.
Do not turn off the device. Switch to flight mode to preserve the call and the text evidence on the device. No calls or texts message will be transmitted to or from the device. Note: This mode will not protect or prevent incoming voicemail messages.
Take the device to the police or to your lawyer to have evidence documented in a format admissible in court.
The police may:
- Take a photo of the call history, text message or message
- Transcribe voicemail messages or
- Use forensic devices and software to document and analyse the data on the device.
Print your call history (sometimes called 'recent calls') and text logs from your mobile phone provider's website or request a copy from customer service. Note that Australian mobile phone carriers only have to hold call data for 60 days.
Are you being tracked?
Many tools exist for tracking a person's location. If you think you are being followed or tracked, trust your instincts. Look for patterns in stalking behaviour.
GPS technology uses satellites to track where a device (and often its owner) is located. At any time, it's likely that a device is within range of four separate satellites. Common products like phones and sat nav devices use GPS technology, but there are other items that can also use it.
Does the stalker find you in places you have taken your car?
Ask the police or a trusted mechanic to search the car for a GPS tracking device. GPS chips can be hidden in nearly anything and tracked using computer software or phone applications.
Check your car for objects that may have a GPS tracking unit attached or installed such as a mobile phone, computer, dog collar or watch with GPS capability.
Does the stalker find you in places you have taken your mobile?
Modern mobile phones included GPS technology that can locate where the phone is. This is most useful when you're using your phone's map feature, as it knows where you are and can direct you to where you want to go. Other apps, such as social media apps, can also use this information and show it freely to anyone looking at your profile.
To stop other people finding you through your phone, adjust your mobile's GPS or location setting. Make sure that apps like Facebook and Snapchat aren't broadcasting your location.
Does the stalker find you via Geotagging?
Geotagging is marking media files such as video, photos or social networking updates with a location. Certain formats such as JPEG allow for geographical data to be embedded within the image and then read by picture viewers, allowing the exact location of where a picture was taken to be saved with the photograph. The pics you post to Flickr can be mapped using this technology.
TURN OFF FEATURES on your mobile and digital cameras that “geotag” your media files, like pics and social networking posts with a date and location.
- Stalkers sometimes use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest, to impersonate, stalk and harass victims. Using safety measures may help reduce risk.
- Communicate via private or instant message rather than publicly through Twitter feed or your Facebook wall.
- Revisit privacy settings weekly or monthly as these features are updated regularly
- Adjust privacy and location settings via the website and on your mobile apps.
- After linking social networking profiles such as Foursquare and Twitter, revisit your privacy settings on each website.
- Customise your settings to best fit your social networking usage.
- Save all threats and harassment and submit to the police and your legal adviser.
- You may deactivate your Facebook account temporarily without deleting your data. This strategy prevents users from viewing your information, tagging you in posts or pictures, and sending you a private or instant message.
If you are harassed, impersonated or threatened online, it is essential to keep all records of these activities. This documentation can serve as evidence in court (which may be needed later if the violence escalates or it may assist you in family court matters relating to your children).
Questions to ask before "friending" someone:
Do I know this person's true identity?
If not, consider ignoring or declining the friendship request.
It could be a friend of the perpetrator. The perpetrator may have told this person a false story and encouraged them to find out informatoin about you. f they are a true friend of yours they will understand if you decline and the need to keep safe.
Does this person have a relationship with the person stalking or abusing me?
If so, consider declining or limiting the friendship request. The stalker may be able to access your information or whereabouts through this person.
For location applications like Foursquare, does this person need to know my location?
If not, consider declining the friendship request.