Domestic Abuse

Social Networking Risks, Privacy and Safety Planning

The use of online social networking sites is increasingly common, and while existing sites grow and change, new sites and new features are coming up all the time.  With the use of social networking sites, like Facebook, it is important to know the risks, as well as the realities relating to your safety and privacy online.

RISKS

An abuser can use social networks to stalk, harass and gain information about a former or current partner.

  • Social networks do not show record of who looks at your page when, which parts of your page, for how long, etc., therefore it is possible for someone to monitor your page without your knowledge.
  • An abuser may impersonate a victim with a new page or by hijacking the victim's page.
  • Abusers may "friend" (Facebook & MySpace) their victim's friends and family and gain at least some level of access to personal information.
  • An abuser may be able to find a partner or former partner's profile and/or other information through search engines.

GPS and other Location-Based Social Networking Systems:  These programs, which are run through cell phones, on Facebook, etc., allow a person to "check-in" at locations; this reveals current location information to anyone connected with that person in their social network.

  • Facebook Places: allows the owner of an account or a friend to check-in and give current location information; privacy settings can be customized to prevent this!
  • Geotagging Photos: pictures taken on smartphones (iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, etc.) may have location information automatically embedded in the data of the phone based on the phone's GPS.  Whether this information is displayed varies depending on which site it is posted.  This can be turned off on all phones!

Spyware:  Can be installed on a computer either physically in-person or remotely through an email, instant message or other download; this can give the person who installed the Spyware information about passwords for social networks and any other accounts accessed online.

PRIVACY

NOTHING posted online through a social networking site or blog is going to be completely private.  Therefore, survivors must weigh the cost/ benefits when choosing where and how to use social networks!

However, privacy settings can be made more secure.

Print step-by-step directions to change Facebook privacy settings to: notify the user of account activity from a new or unknown computer or mobile device, block profile accessibility for creators of applications and games, disable search options, and more.

SAFETY PLANNING

Awareness is key!  There may be more information "public" online about you than you would imagine.  Try searching your name on Google, Bing or another search engine, and see what comes up!

Some Tips:

  • Google Yourself.
  • On Facebook, periodically view 'Photos of Me' to see what is there.
  • As Facebook grows and changes, the default privacy settings may change.  It's a good idea to 1. pay attention to news stories or updates from Facebook regarding updates and changes to learn how that may affect privacy settings, and 2. periodically check your settings.  The same goes for other the privacy policies on other social networking sites.
  • Visit icanstalku.com for valuable information about privacy settings around photos and how to disable Geotagging on smartphones.
  • Talk to your kids about all internet use; including major social networking sites.
  • Be thoughtful about what you're posting, privacy settings and whose "friendship" you accept/ who you connect with online.
  • Set unique passwords and security questions.

If someone is impersonating, monitoring or otherwise harassing you online there are options for recourse:

  • Reporting inappropriate or false content/ pages to the site owner may result in the removal of the content or page if it violates terms of use.
  • Most sites have a process for users if your account is compromised.
  • If reporting to law enforcement: save/ print messages, posts, etc. for documentation.
  • Law Enforcement can contact site personnel and send preservation letters to prevent evidence from being deleted with the request that the owner of the account not be notified that their account is under investigation.
  • Misuse of online spaces may be a violatioin of a Protection From Abuse order (PFA) or could be included in an application for a PFA.

Click here for more information about online privacy and safety planning from the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

Download the PDF to print a copy of these Risks, Privacy Tips, including instructions to change settings, and Safety Planning Tips.