This is the third article in a series of three blogs taken from vpnmentor.com, with their permission, and with their encouragement to share this information. Please feel free to use the link below to examine the complete Empowering Online Safety Guide for Women. You will find it to be a wonderful collection of very clear and instructive information having to do with online safety for women.
Because 76% of girls who are trafficked begin their contact online, it is important that parents share information with their children in an appropriate way. This Safety Guide can help you to do that.
Online Dating and Sexual Harassment
Online dating is where women are most vulnerable to cyber-sexual harassment.
Catfishing is when someone misrepresents themselves online, using fake photos and profiles. Also, a woman can unknowingly become the accomplice of a catfisher when her profile is captured by a catfisher and is used on someone else’s dating profile.
Unfortunately, one cannot date online and also guarantee that you will never be a victim. Protect yourself on Dating Sites:
- Do a Background Check: search the person on Google, Facebook, and other dating apps. Look for inconsistencies in their pictures and profile descriptions. If you find any, report the profile to your app.
- Get to Know the Person on the App: Chat on the app before moving the conversation to another platform. Get to know the person before divulging personal information. When you do move to another platform, be aware of what they can see there, e.g., photos, status updates, contacts. See the link below to learn which platforms show what info. If you do want to meet in person, be sure to meet in a public place, and let a friend know where you will be.
- Keep Your Social Media Accounts and Pictures Private.
Meetup allows users to create and join events and activities based on themes and activities that interest them. Popular categories include health and fitness, food, film, pets, etc. It is a way to meet new people and make friends. But be careful:
- Don’t include too much personal information on your profile. Your profile will be available to anyone who is on the internet. Do not give any identifying info regarding your home or work locations. If you are looking for family meetups or playdates, do not give info about your children, where they go to school, their names, etc.
- Get to know People IRL before Communicating One-on-One: You can use the Meetup email system, so that your emails go through the organization. You can choose to block messages from users and only receive notices from event organizers. You can also choose whether you want your groups or interests listed on your profile.
- Let a Friend Know Where You Are Going: Tell a friend where you will be, and when you expect to be home. If the gathering involves drinks, never leave yours unattended.
Preventing Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) affects nearly one third of American women. Technology can be used by victims to collect evidence against abusers, but abusers can use technology to control their victims. While many perpetrators use technology designed specifically for surveillance, it is more common to repurpose other types of apps to reach the same goals. These may include find my phone apps, and family tracking and child monitoring apps.
Many of these apps allow abusers to track a victim’s location, read her messages by forwarding them to another device, and even watch and listen to her remotely through her phone’s microphone and camera. These apps can usually be configured so that the app icon is hidden, making it nearly impossible for the victim to detect it on her phone. Even spyware has been largely ineffective at detecting these apps.
Ways to Keep a Partner from Surveilling You
- Keep your Phone on You at All Times. Almost all of the apps require that the abuser physically have access to the victim’s phone at least once.
- Be Cautious Using Any Phone That You Did Not Obtain Yourself. Abusers who control often control the money, too, and so end up being the one who purchases the phone. They can then pre-install dual purpose apps or purchase rooted phones with off-store surveillance apps.
- Password Protect Your Phone and Don’t Share Your Password with Anyone. If you suspect you partner is accessing your phone, change your password. Make it long and complex and do not use elements your partner might guess, such as your birthday or a pet’s name. Do not be coerced into revealing you password or allowing these apps to be installed on your phone.
If you are a victim of IPV, there are resources to help you to get out of your abusive situation. In addition to local organizations that you may find in your area, here are a few national organizations that can help:
- National Network to End Domestic Violence: https://nnedv.org/
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- Family and Youth Services Bureau: https://acf.hhs.gov/fysb/resource/help-fv
It’s a great idea to have an emergency app on your phone, just in case. These apps let you notify friends, family, or authorities when you’re feeling unsafe. Some phones have these features built in. If your phone does not, check out these apps, all of which are available for both Android and iOS:
- ICE, which stands for In Case of Emergency. ICE allows you to send a message and your GPS location to selected contacts when you want friends and family to keep tabs on your whereabouts. (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lafache.sylvain.ice_andrid&hl=en)
- React Mobile does the same thing as ICE, but also has an SOS Help Me button that notifies your pre-chosen contacts via email and text. If you choose, it will also post a message to Facebook and Twitter. It also automatically contacts local emergency services. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/react-mobile-safety-app/id522851588?mt=8)
- Siren GPS won’t contact friends and family, but with the push of a button, it will alert emergency services and provide them with your location. You can also set up a personal profile with relevant information that is passed on to the authorities in case of an emergency. This can include medical conditions and emergency contact info. The app gives the option of calling the fire department, an ambulance, or police.
In addition to the above apps, you can also show certain information on your lock screen to be used in case of a situation in which you are unable to give information about yourself to emergency services. For example, you can write something like: “In case of emergency, call (Name of a contact)” and include their phone number. Or, if you have a specific medical issue, like a severe allergy or epilepsy, you can include that info, also. How to set a lock screen message will vary depending upon which model phone you have.
Technology and the internet play a big part in our lives. As women, we are often targeted, but that does not mean that we should necessarily disengage. We hope that this guide empowers you to protect and defend yourself online and in person.
If you found any part of this guide helpful, please share it with others.
Also, please follow the link below to see the complete Guide with additional information.
Many thanks to vpnmentor for making this Guide available, and for encouraging us to post this info for women.