ADZ Law, LLP strongly encourages all our clients to “Shelter in Place” as we have. Our attorneys, working from home, remain busy as ever, especially because we respond to a range of issues that can in fact make home a place that also threatens health & safety. If you are a victim of family violence, be assured that the The National Domestic Violence Hotline and RAINN – the National Sexual Assault Hotline remain fully operational and now offer 24/7 online chat and text messaging in English and Spanish. These agencies, like ADZ Law, LLP, are grateful for technology especially at a time like this, but also remain very aware of the dangers technology may pose. Our staff already takes all precautions towards tech safety and we advise our clients that use desktops, laptops, tablets or smartphones to take safety precautions like using a strong password; encrypting files; and being careful to not leave devices unattended.
For safety tips, information, and privacy strategies for victim-survivors using technology, make sure to read (on a safe machine; on which you are confident your browsing history is not being recorded; at a safe time): Survivor Toolkit.
You can read the Online Privacy & Safety Tips and learn how to change settings on your mobile devices, social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter, and your home WiFi network. The goal is to decrease the chance that the abusive person will misuse technology to stalk or control you.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic and this extraordinary time, it is exceedingly important to connect, and not feel further isolated. If you are speaking with a friend, or a family member, or a community elder, or a crisis counselor or advocate, you should share your concerns about technology and safety with them and take some simple steps to ensure safer communications.
We applaud TechSafety.org for the range of resources they have created for advocates working with survivors. You may consider sharing the list of resources with whomever is working with you and offering support. Remember, you are the expert on your situation, if something sounds like it could be risky, do speak up!
Note, if the devices you are using—to call, text, for apps—were given to you by the abusive party, and they have administrator control, there are several ways in which your safety might be compromised.
Be aware of the risks, and potential programs on your computer that could be monitoring, tracing, and controlling you. You can read about “Spyware” here, and make decisions about how to proceed. It may require taking the computer to a third-party expert (at an Apple store), or more drastic measure.
To ensure both your online & offline privacy: take a deep breath, and make a list of the various things that could be used against you by a digital stalker, for example:
*potential hidden devices,
*personal assistants (such as Google Home or Alexa),
*home security systems,
*device monitoring or keystroke logging software on your devices
Begin by changing passwords to be strong and secure as well as check account settings for settings like automatic email forwarding, or finding someone trustworthy who can do that for you. Remember, some fixes are easy (covering built-in web cameras with a piece of removable tape), but others are more involved (the spyware software that might be installed in the computer that may require an expert to investigate).
While we shelter in place and large changes/tests/reprogramming etc. might be impossible, consider using a safe phone and making calls to those supporting you. In closed quarter situations, consider your call or text logs and implement communication protocols like leaving voicemails with explicit instructions with whether you can take a call/message back.
We stand with you during these unprecedented times, and wish for everyone’s health and safety.