Your activities on the internet can be tracked by somebody who wants to control you or find out what you’ve been doing online. The suggestions below can help you cover your tracks as you use the internet. Please remember that none of these suggestions can protect you completely and you may want to use more than one suggestion.
- Use a computer that people you know don’t have access to. You can go to a public library or community centre and use a computer where other people can’t easily see the screen.
- Clear your internet browser’s cache and history list to erase information about the websites you’ve visited. Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox are examples of common browsers.
The Assaulted Women’s Helpline provides steps on how you can erase your cache and history list:
Erasing Your Tracks
Browsers like Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox are designed to leave traces behind indicating where you’ve been and what you’ve been looking at on the Internet.
It’s hard to absolutely guarantee that your travels on the Internet can’t be traced at all, but here are some simple things you can do to reduce the chances that someone can look through your computer and find out what you’ve been reading.
In general, you want to erase two things:
- Your Cache (this is where the computer stores copies of files you’ve recently looked at with your browser).
- Your History List (this is a single file containing the addresses of the places you’ve recently visited).
If you use Internet Explorer:
- Open the TOOLS menu, select INTERNET OPTIONS.
- Select the GENERAL tab at the top.
- In the section called “Temporary Internet Files,” click on “Delete Files”
- Your cache will now be cleared.
- On the same screen, in the section called “History,” click on “Clear History”
- Your history list will now be cleared.
Note that clearing the cache and history in Internet Explorer automatically clears your address bar.
If you use Firefox:
- Open the TOOLS menu, select OPTIONS.
- Select the PRIVACY tab located on the left side of the menu bar.
- Select the “History” tab and click on “Clear”
- Your history will now be cleared.
- Select the “Cache” tab and click on “Clear”
Your cache will now be cleared.
Note that clearing the cache and history in Firefox automatically clears your address bar as well.
There is also another option called “Clear all information stored while browsing.”
***This will remove ALL of your browsing history, cache, recently downloaded files, all saved information and searches, all cookies and saved passwords.***
- Select this tab and click OK.
- You will get a pop up to confirm that you are about to erase all information.
- Click OK.
One additional but important tip:
When you clear the cache and the history list, you erase not only the information on where you’ve been, but any other information that had been previously stored there.
So, if your partner checks and sees that the cache and the history list have been completely emptied, he’ll not only know that you know how to do this, but he might guess that you’re trying to hide something.
One possible way to avoid suspicion is to clear the cache and history once you’re done looking at information you don’t want your partner to know about. After they’re cleared, spend some time visiting sites that you think your partner wouldn’t object to. This way, the cache and history list start to get filled up and your partner might be less likely to notice that old information is missing.
Other browsers will be slightly different in the detail of what’s required to do these two things. But in any case, what you’ll need to do is clear your cache (or “temporary files”) and erase your history list. Again, this doesn’t guarantee that your browsing can’t be traced. Someone with greater computer sophistication will still be able to reconstruct your net travels. But it’s a good thing to do to make it more difficult for someone to know where you’ve been.
- Be careful about email. You may use a web-based account like Gmail or a program on your computer, such as Microsoft Outlook. Email programs can be set up to download from a web-based account. A password-protected web-based account can help you keep emails secret. If you use an email program on your computer, there are ways to delete emails permanently. But any email can be sent to the wrong person or get redirected or copied without your knowledge. “Keystroke” software can also be installed on your computer to record everything you type. So you may choose to avoid sending emails with information you don’t want others to read.
- Choose effective passwords for your email account or any action you do online, such as online banking, email and Facebook. Avoid passwords that are easy to guess, such as your name or birthday. Effective passwords are usually longer than 8 characters; use both uppercase and lowercase letters; use numbers and symbols; and don’t include dictionary words or common names. Use different passwords for different online accounts, keep them safe and private and change them every so often.
Social media safety
Many people and organizations use social media like Facebook and Twitter to communicate. So do we. But there are specific safety considerations you should know about to maintain your privacy when using social media.
- Check your Facebook privacy settings to make sure you’re comfortable with the information other people can view about you. Check them often because Facebook won’t always inform you about changes to its privacy features. It’s also important to “friend” only people you trust and be careful what you post on other peoples’ pages as comments can be found in Google results.
- Twitter has information on how to keep your account safe. It’s important to be careful about Tweeting personal information because you may not always know the people who are following your account.
- If you use social media and email on your smartphone, it may keep you logged into your accounts all the time. Consider using a hard-to-guess password to be able to get into your phone. You can also uninstall and remove applications that keep you logged into your accounts.