Does someone have pictures of you and you don’t know how? Do they keep showing up unexpectedly to places where you are? Do they know things about your life that you haven’t told many people?
Modern technology makes it very easy for people to stalk, intimidate and threaten their targets both online and offline. The good news is that there are lots of measures we can take to protect ourselves. The DIY Online Security Guide for Every Woman, an easy-to-understand guide about online security launched earlier this month, shows some of most important ones.
The Security Guide was designed with women dealing with domestic abuse or stalking in mind, but its principles can be used irrespective of gender, location or situation. It is written in simple language and teach us everything we need to know about how we can be tracked – and how to hide our tracks on email, browsers, Facebook and other platforms.
The guide, available in English, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto and French, was developed over two years by CHAYN, an open-source volunteer-led project using technology to address problems women face today.
CHAYN volunteers got the idea, while listening and speaking to women on Facebook groups for survivors of abuse. They noted that women didn’t know basic security measures they could take to stop the most common forms of online stalking or abuse.
“We started showing how their partners were keeping tabs on them by doing simple things like monitoring the check-ins of their best friends whose privacy settings were lax or looking at their Amazon account or browsing history,” says Hera Hussein, a CHAYN volunteer who worked on the guide. “When we answered their questions, women were so relieved and kept asking why there wasn’t a resource like this.”
For somebody experiencing abuse from a controlling partner, their online activities are often a vital way to reach out for support and guidance. Yet, according to CHAYN research, almost half of women in abusive relationships surveyed in the UK reported that their online activities were monitored in some way by an abusive partner. “This seriously hinders their abilities to communicate freely without having to censor or conceal themselves. In many cases, this has a direct effect on their physical safety and ultimately puts them at risk,” says Aliya Bakheit, another CHAYN volunteer. “It is important to know what information you may be inadvertently making available to harassers or abusers,” adds CHAYN’s Lee Ball.
When the first draft was completed, CHAYN volunteers asked organizations working with survivors of abuse and stalking, as well as security experts, activists and members of the general public from all over the world to review the guide.
This guide is not a bullet-proof solution as it cannot include all of the ways abusers can track someone, but it is a collection of useful steps, tips and instructions for women to protect themselves whilst staying connected. The group aims to update the guide regularly so women can receive the latest information on apps and privacy options on social media sites.
The guide has been published on Gitbooks under a Creative Commons Share Alike license, so everyone can remix, share and redistribute contents honouring the same license.
So, go ahead and share it!