Celebrating Data Privacy Day – Ask Before You Post

January 28th is internationally recognized as Data Privacy Day. This day began as, and continues to be, a way to create awareness about the importance of privacy and protecting personal information—a crucial component of survivors’ safety.

Obtaining privacy over personal data can seem almost impossible in today’s digital age. A significant amount of our lives is online, and even our offline activities seem to emerge online… somehow, whether we want it to or not. I gave a presentation recently and the organizers took photos and posted them in a public photo album that included my full name. But this is not an isolated event, this has happened several times in my work. During another presentation, attendees were tweeting out my quotes followed by my full name. At no point was I asked for my permission. It becomes my responsibility to actively reach out and communicate any privacy needs. It’s usually just assumed that people are ok with sharing their lives on the web. This is unfortunate. For survivors of abuse, whose privacy is directly linked to their safety, staying on top of what people and companies do with their personal information can be downright exhausting.

We need to shift our collective thinking around data and privacy. Just because it can be online, does not mean that it should be. People often feel bad or uncomfortable asking others to remove online posts or requesting basic information about privacy policies. It’s time to flip the narrative on this. It’s ok to share privacy needs and requests. It’s ok to ask for content to be removed. Privacy is critical to safety for survivors, but survivors shouldn’t have to disclose safety concerns for their privacy to be considered or taken seriously. If we approach this from a privacy-first framework, we can actually start protecting privacy instead of chasing after it.

We’ve all heard tips about protecting our own privacy. That list is everywhere. Let’s celebrate Data Privacy Day differently this year - let’s consider some steps we can take to protect other people’s privacy. If we can create this shift in culture, our own privacy will also be more protected.  

1.       Ask before you post pictures of, or content about, other people.
Not everyone wants their information or images online - Or maybe they don’t care if it’s shared with a limited audience, but prefer that it not have a public audience. You can never assume. Even your selfie-obsessed friend deserves privacy.

2.       Ask before you post pictures of, or content about, other people’s kids.
I know this one can be hard. I mean, do they not see how adorable their kid is? Or how adorable my kid is sitting next to their kid? Privacy over cuteness, people. We have to get our priorities straight.

3.       Think before you share something that was sent to you and ask for permission.
Just because someone shared it with you or on their Facebook page, doesn’t mean they want it shared with everyone you know.

4.       If you run a business or organization website or social media site – ask before you post content that is personally identifying.
Even better, create policies and practices around how you ensure full consent.

Do you see a pattern here? Asking before sharing is the fundamental part of ensuring that people are in control of their privacy. It’s easy to think that we’re all just a needle in a haystack and wonder what issue could possibly come from a simple post or tag. But we live in a world of search engines and even if your page doesn’t have many followers, that content can pop up with a simple Google search. Changing how we treat other people’s information will transform our own privacy risks in the future. Join us in creating a culture of respect and consent in regards to privacy.

Erica Olsen
Deputy Director, Safety Net Project 

Tech Tips for the Holidays


This holiday season, I hope you get lots of presents! Or at least one thing you really want. If one of those pressies is a brand new technology device – say the newest iPhone, Kindle Fire, or tablet – here are some security and privacy tips.

Linked Account(s)

Many devices are associated with some kind of account.  You may have to create a new account or link an email address to the device.  Make sure you know whose account it’s linked to—preferably yours. Choose a username or email and password that only you will know.  

Go Through the Settings

This can be a bit boring (so grab some hot chocolate or eggnog), but spend some time going through the settings. Not only will this help you learn all the options and features on your brand new tech device, it also allows you to see what kind of security and privacy controls you have.

Was it Used?

I love hand-me-downs! But when it comes to tech, it’s important to make sure that all previous accounts and data have been removed. Do a full reset of the device to delete everything and get it to factory settings. Not sure how to do it? Just google “How to reset [your device name here].”

Go Through the Apps

Most smart devices allow you to download apps or additional software onto the device. Make sure you know what’s on there, especially if someone else set it up for you. If you come across an app that you know you won’t use or aren’t sure about, consider deleting it.

Update Passwords

If you asked someone else to set up anything up for you (the service, account, apps, etc.), and you gave them your username/passwords, consider changing your passwords afterwards. Yes, the holiday season is all about giving – but this doesn’t apply to your passwords and privacy! So remember that even if someone is nice enough to gift you with a fun device, it’s yours, not theirs.

We hope you all have fabulous holidays with lots of good cheer & yummy food!

~ Safety Net Team

Safe Surfing 101: Internet Browser Privacy Settings

Internet browsers—Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Apple Safari— are the entryway to the internet. They are also one of the first steps you can take to increase your privacy while online. Each of these browsers has built-in privacy features and settings that can minimize how much of your online activity someone else can see.

So, you’d rather not have your roommates know that you’ve been working out to Richard Simmons videos (it’s ok, we’re not judging!), or maybe you want to hide your engagement ring searches from your girlfriend. Perhaps you want to be able to privately search for information on domestic violence, dating abuse, or stalking without your partner knowing. These are all valid reasons why you’d want your internet browsing to be private. Particularly, for victims of abuse, in-browser privacy settings can help increase your privacy and safety.

We have a new handout that breaks down in-browser privacy settings for commonly used browsers. The steps in the handout may be slightly different depending on which version of the browser you’re using or what device you’re accessing it from, but it should still help point you in the right direction. Some of the most important in-browser settings to be aware of are the ones that allow you to manage what online searches and activity remain visible in your browser history. You may choose to use the private browsing mode to visit websites without any of that activity being logged in the browser history. You can also choose to go into your browser history and delete selected webpages or searches from the history so they will no longer be visible. For survivors of abuse, these tools can be critical to safety and privacy if an abuser is monitoring the computer/device activity by going through the browser history on the device. It’s important to note that in-browser privacy settings will not prevent someone from seeing your computer or device activity if they are using a spyware monitoring product. If you believe that your activity is being remotely monitored by someone, use another device to access information that you wouldn’t want them to see.

Check out the Steps to Increasing Browser Privacy handout for more information.

Safe Surfing! 

Stop. Think. Connect.

The internet is such a big part of our lives. We bank, shop, watch movies, read the news, play games, and do a lot more. We also share a lot about ourselves online, whether it’s letting Sephora (and every online targeted advertiser) know that you're currently looking for the perfect lipstick (which I found, by the way!) or sharing selfies of said perfect lipstick on Facebook. The internet knows a lot about us – just Google yourself. You might be surprised at how well-known you actually are.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month as well as National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). For survivors of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault, online security and safety is imperative; but it’s also important for everyone. One of the theme for NCSAM is STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Before you connect online, stop, and think about your privacy and security. Who’s going to see that selfie on Facebook? Is your connection secure when you type in your credit card information on Sephora’s website? (Tip: Check your Facebook privacy settings, and make sure you’re using an HTTPS connection when sharing sensitive financial information.)

To honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month and National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’ve put together a series of videos on Online Privacy & Safety. Below is today’s video, and for the next four days, we’ll be releasing a new video in this series (check back here daily or follow NNEDV on social media to see them all!). They’re short and sweet, and we hope they will be helpful.

·        Online Privacy & Safety - Introduction

·        Creating an Account

·        Security Settings

·        Privacy Settings

·        Facebook Privacy, Security & Safety

Meanwhile, if you want more tips on surfing the internet safely, check out:

“Online Privacy & Safety” section in our Technology Safety & Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors

National Cyber Security Awareness Month’s Tips

3 Simple Questions To Determine Which Safety App is Right for You

Many apps on the market have been specifically designed to help users communicate their safety needs in an emergency. These are referred to as safety apps and they use the cell phone’s location, text messages, alarms, video/camera features, and other alert options.

As more of these safety apps become available, one of the questions we get a lot is: "Which safety app should I use?" And we wish we can say: "Use this one!" However, we can’t because which app you choose depends on a lot of things. In fact, we wrote a handout on things to consider when selecting a safety app. Still, many people ask us: "But can’t you just tell me which one to use?" To narrow it down, we’ve created 3 simple questions to get you started.

What do you want the safety app to do?

Do you want an easy way to notify your friends or family if you’re in danger? Would you prefer to connect with authorities in an emergency? Or are you looking for basic information about domestic violence or resources local to you that can help? Most apps have a different purposes and determining what you want is the first step.

Does the app meet your needs?

Is the app easy to use or make it easier for you to do something? Remember, the purpose of an app is to make life easier. If it actually makes it harder for you to do something, then just stick with what’s easiest. It might be faster to call your friend than to find the app among all the other apps on your phone, find the right screen, tap it three times, darn—tapped the wrong area, tap again, only for it to send a cryptic message that might confuse your friend.

Does the app truly do what it says it will?

This is where you should test the app to see if it works the way it says it will. For example, some apps will send your location to your safety contacts if you’re in danger. Test it. Did it do that? Was the location accurate? This step is critical if you’re using a safety app for communicating in a potential emergency. Test this app with friends and family before you’re in danger and with friends and family who uses different types of devices. Some apps work more accurately on one platform versus another.

These three questions will get you started in determining if it’s the right app for you. Of course, if you’re a survivor or someone who is concerned about your privacy and want to be thorough, check out our handout on Choosing & Using Apps: Considerations for Survivors. But if that’s tl;dr, start with these 3 questions.

You can also read our reviews on select apps too. We’ve downloaded them and tested them, and we offer a pretty thorough assessment on each of them. Ultimately, however, whether an app is right for you is up to you. (Just make sure it works and that it’s what you want!)

Increasing Privacy: Opt Out of Schools Sharing Kid’s Information

Did you know that most public schools can share what is called “Directory Information” about students with ANY third party who requests it? Directory Information can include an array of details about a student, including age, date of birth, address, height, weight, email address, photos, clubs they belong to, and other school-related details. This information can be released to anyone who asks for it, including marketers, information brokers (who collect and sell personal information), predators, or abusers. This can be a privacy and safety concern, especially for survivors of violence. Many survivors of violence relocate with their children and are diligent at maintaining their privacy to keep their personal information and location unknown to the abuser.

Survivors need to know that this information can be shared and know how to opt out so they can minimize the risks of abusers tracking them or attempting to contact the children directly. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows parents to opt their children out of Directory Information.

Unfortunately, the window to opt out is short; sometimes just a week or two when school first starts. Many schools will also require that families opt out each school year. As school starts again this year, ask your children’s school about opting out of Directory Information. Parents can also ask schools if they have internal policies to limit who may request and access Directory information and advocate for the creation of those policies if they don’t exist.

For more information about this issue, visit World Privacy Forum’s Student Privacy 101 Series, check out the World Privacy Forum’s #OptOutKids Campaign, and watch their YouTube video.

New ‘App Safety Center’ Helps Victims and their Advocates Navigate Smartphone Apps

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is excited to announce our newest online resource, the App Safety Center. The App Safety Center provides tips, information, and resources for the safe development and use of smartphone apps addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, harassment, and stalking.

Mobile platforms offer new and innovative ways to raise awareness and provide survivors and advocates with important tools. Over the past few years, several apps been developed to assist survivors, educate communities, and connect victim service providers to needed resources. Despite the significant potential to dramatically increase awareness and make information more accessible to survivors, many concerns must be thought through when developing and using apps created for victims of violence and their advocates. Some of these concerns include safety and privacy, since abusers are often misusing technology as a tactic of abuse, harassment, and harm.

“We are so grateful for the support from Verizon that allowed us to launch this critical initiative,” said Cindy Southworth, NNEDV Executive Vice President. “The App Safety Center will give survivors the tools and information they need to make informed decisions about their safe use of smartphone technology.”

The App Safety Center has four main sections:

  • Apps for Survivors
  • Apps for Public Awareness and Education
  • Apps for Victim Service Providers
  • Considerations for App Developers

The section on Apps for Survivors reviews several categories of apps, including those used to assess safety and abuse, personal safety apps (including apps specifically for teens and college students), and other tools for survivors.

To create this desperately-needed resource, the Safety Net team at NNEDV reviewed and tested more than 40 apps. The App Safety Center will continue to grow as Safety Net adds more information and reviews new apps as they are introduced. If you have any feedback or know of any updates or new apps, please share them with us by contacting the Safety Net Team


Technology Summit 2015 Agenda & Events

Tech Summit 2015 Welcome Image

We're so excited to welcome attendees to our 3rd Annual Technology Summit next week in San Francisco! If you're joining us, we can't wait to meet you! If you're not joining us, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to see what we're up to. Take a look at the program book to see what's going on.

This year, we have much to discuss in the world of technology, privacy, and survivor safety. 
Earlier this year, in Elonis v. the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Anthony Elonis, who posted threats (which he called rap lyrics) against his ex-wife on Facebook. Elonis had been convicted under the standard that a “reasonable person” would have viewed the posts as real threats. However, the Court said that something more is required, without specifying exactly what, so it is unclear how that decision will impact future cases involving online threats.

Despite our disappointment with that decision, the issue of sharing or distributing intimate images without consent (aka “revenge porn”) has seen a lot of movement. In fact, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Google have updated their policies to include banning non-consensual pornography on their sites. Currently, a federal bill addressing this issue is being discussed and debated.

For victim service programs, selecting effective technologies to support their services, using technology to reach survivors, and finding ways to hold offenders accountable for their crimes continue to be core topics. Privacy, security, safety, and survivor empowerment are part and parcel of those issues, making these very complex discussions.

We hope that by the end of the Summit, we will all leave with more tools and ideas as well as more questions and thoughts about what we can do to help survivors find safety and healing while working toward a world where violence against all people no longer exists.

If you're not able to join us, follow along on social media (#techsummit15 and #TS15QA)!

Technology Summit 2015 Overflow Hotel

Hotel rooms at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District is full, and the Overflow Hotel is the Serrano Hotel

The Serrano Hotel is centrally located near Union Square and is a little over a mile from the Hilton. The rate is $219, plus 16.315% tax, and a $22 Urban Fee, which includes coffee in the lobby, newspaper, Wi-Fi, Town Car Service to the Financial District between 7 – 9 am, and local phone calls. 

To reserve a room at the Serrano, click here or call 415-351-7622 and reference “2015 NNEDV Safety Net Technology Summit.” These rates will be available until July 15 or the room block is filled.

Early Bird Registration Extended

We have great news! We are extending the deadline for early registration to Monday, June 29th. Early bird registration is $375 and will go up to the standard rate of $475 on June 30th. Take advantage of this extension and get $100 off your registration!

Register to attend the 2015 Technology Summit

Also, don't forget that if you're an OVW grantee, some OVW grantees have been approved to use their training travel funds to attend the Summit. More information about using your OVW funds to attend is here.

For the most up-to-date information about the Technology Summit, go to this page

We look forward to seeing you in July!