Covering your tracks online
You may not want other people to know that you’ve been searching for information or advice from websites such as The Elm Foundation.
When you browse the internet on a mobile phone, tablet or computer, you leave a ‘history’ trail of pages and websites you’ve visited.
It’s nearly impossible to completely avoid being tracked online, but if you’re worried about someone knowing which sites you’ve been looking at, there are some things you can do to help cover your tracks.
While you’re browsing our website – "Exit site quickly”
You may need to hide the fact that you’ve been viewing our website by leaving it quickly. At the top of every page on our site is an “Exit site quickly” button. This will take you on to Google and away from our site.
If you’re using a laptop or desktop computer, it might be best to have another document or website open in a new tab or window while browsing. If someone comes in the room and you don’t want them to see what you’re looking at, you can quickly switch to another window or tab.
What is browser history?
Your browser history is a list of all the website pages you visit while searching the internet. As you go from one website to another, your virtual footprints will be saved on your computer/mobile device with information including the date and timestamp of each page load. Each internet browser has a different way of providing you access to this data so that you can view your internet history or delete it.
If other users have access to that computer or mobile device, your privacy may be invaded. If you are experiencing domestic abuse, your abuser may be able to discover your online activities.
Deleting your browsing history
You can delete the history of websites you’ve visited, but it’s important to know that if you delete your browsing history, someone else using the same device may notice.
If you share a tablet, mobile phone, laptop or computer with someone, they might notice that passwords or website addresses have disappeared from their history.
Warning about deleting cookies and address histories
It’s important to state that there is a risk involved in removing data from your computer. For instance, if your partner uses online banking and has a saved password, then if you clear the cookies on your PC, your partner will realise you’ve done so, because their password will no longer be saved. Also, your partner may notice if the address history on the PC has been cleared, and this may raise suspicion.
Find out how to delete your browsing history from the most commonly used browsers:
- Chrome: delete your browsing history
- Firefox: delete browsing, search and download history on Firefox
- Internet Explorer: deleting your web page history
- Microsoft Edge: view & delete browser history
- Safari: delete your browsing history
- Opera: deleting private data
Find out how to delete your browsing history from the most commonly used browsers on smart phones:
- How to clear history and cookies from Safari on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch
- Delete your Chrome browsing history on a iPhone or iPad
- Delete your Chrome browsing history on an android device
In order to avoid creating cookies and histories, you can use private browsing modes on most browsers.
Private browsing (incognito)
When you’re browsing ‘incognito’, the internet browser won’t store cookies or record your browsing history on the computer, mobile or tablet.
This option is available on the most commonly used web browsers:
If you use a search toolbar in your web browser, remember that your searched items can be saved as part of your history. Find out how to delete your searched items from the following search engines:
Securing your social media
Remember that some actions you take to increase your security or privacy might alert an abuser, and they might escalate their abusive behaviour.
Click on the social media profiles below to learn more about how to make them more secure.
Twitter has certain rules and policies that it expects everyone who uses it to abide by. The rules include not abusing people on Twitter. When someone breaks the rules they can be sanctioned. We know that perpetrators use Twitter to abuse their partners or ex-partners, monitor their movements and also carry out certain behaviours such as revenge pornography. This is unacceptable and against Twitter’s rules and policies.
Below are some of the main ways of keeping safe on Twitter. There are other tools and resources that can be used and these can be found on Twitter’s Safety Centre.
Stop other people seeing your tweets
You can ‘protect your tweets’ so only people who you approve can see what you are tweeting. Here’s how to protect your tweets
Disable your location
If your tweets have a location added it may be easier for the perpetrator or their friends and family to find you. Here’s how to check your location settings and switch off your location:
- In the Tweet compose box on twitter.com, click the button with your location.
- Select Turn off location from the dropdown menu.
- The Turn off location setting will be saved, so next time you compose a Tweet on twitter.com your location information will not appear.
Block someone who is being abusive
If you are being abused or harassed by someone online you can block them so they can’t see your profile, and stop you from receiving their tweets. NOTE if you block someone they will know that you have blocked them. Here’s how to block someone.
You can report someone for being abusive, threatening you or harassing you on Twitter. You can report them using this form.
Use your report as evidence
If you have reported someone for being abusive you can also download and email your report to use as evidence for the police or other agencies. Here’s how to use your report as evidence.
Facebook has certain rules that it expects everyone who uses it to abide by. Rules include not abusing people on Facebook. When someone breaks the rules they can be sanctioned. We know that perpetrators use Facebook to abuse their partners or ex-partners, monitor their movements and also carry out certain behaviours such as revenge pornography. This is unacceptable and against Facebook’s rules.
You can learn about all the privacy basics of Facebook here: Take the Facebook privacy basics.
Below are some of the main ways of keeping safe on Facebook. There are other tools that can be used as well and these can be found on Facebook’s Safety Centre:
- Unfriend someone
- Block someone who is being abusive or harassing you
- Report someone who is being abusive or harassing you
More useful links
- What to do someone is threatening to share things you want to keep private
- What to do if someone is pretending to be you on Facebook
You can take the Facebook security check-up to add additional security to your account. Learn more.
You can also download your Facebook data into a PDF and use it however you want. This could be for the police as proof of online abuse or for other evidential requirements.
To download your data from your Facebook page:
- Click at the top right of any Facebook page and select Settings
- Click Download a copy of your Facebook data below your General Account Settings
- Click Start My Archive
For more information, Women’s Aid and Facebook create Safety guide, which you can read here.
If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing email messages, they may be printed and saved as evidence of this abuse. Any email you have previously sent will be stored in Sent Items. If you started an email but didn’t finish it, it might be in your Drafts folder. If you reply to any email, the original message will probably be in the body of the message – print and delete the email if you don’t want anyone to see your original message.
When you delete an item in any email program (Outlook Express, Outlook, etc.) it is not really deleted. Instead, it is moved to a folder called “Deleted Items” (or sometimes, “Bin”). To make the item truly disappear, you have to then delete it from within the Deleted Items/Bin folder. From this folder, right click on the relevant item to select “delete” or “Delete forever” (the options vary depending on the program, but the result is the same).
If you use Women’s Aid’s Survivor’s Forum, don’t forget to log out of your account when you have finished your browsing session so no one else can log in as you. If you use any other forums, remember to logout of those sessions once you have finished.
If you do not use a password to log on to your computer, someone else will be able to access your email and track your internet usage.
All of the above information may not completely hide your tracks. Many browser types have features that display recently visited sites. The safest way to find information on the internet would be at a local library, a friend’s house, or at work.