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Home / Special Collections / Safety & Privacy in a Digital World

Special Collection: Safety & Privacy in a Digital World

Table of Contents:

Introduction | Back to top

In today’s world, we are using digital technology in ways we never imagined were possible. People are “plugged in” through a variety of tools (mobile devices, computers, game systems, etc.) and applications (social networks, online gaming, photo and video sharing, blogs, etc.), and information and people are more accessible than ever. As we move forward and learn to adapt to this cultural shift, we must consider not only the possibilities for impacting positive social change (look for a future Special Collection dedicated to this topic), but also the potential risks that technological advancements may raise for those who experience domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking.

This Special Collection provides information and resources to support the safety and privacy of those who may or do experience technology-assisted abuse. It reviews the ways in which technology can be misused by perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking to harass, threaten, coerce, surveille, exploit, and violate their victim(s). It offers tips for enhancing data security and personal privacy online, on computers and networks, and in public records and databases. The collection also explores considerations for advocates and organizations serving survivors of abuse, including advocacy tips, security and privacy protections for programs, and online presence and services.

The digital world is ever evolving, at a rate that sometimes feels impossible to grasp. There will always be a “next big thing” which will undoubtedly raise questions about the safety of survivors of abuse. It is our role to ask those questions, to support informed, victim-centered choices around the use of technology, and to continue to advocate for the rights and needs of those experiencing abuse.

This collection was developed by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Special thanks to the SafetyNet Project of the National Network on Domestic Violence for their leadership and resource development in this area.

Technology-Assisted Abuse | Back to top

Technology can be very helpful to victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking; however, it is important to also consider how technology might be misused. Abusers and perpetrators can use technology to harass, threaten, coerce, surveille, exploit, and violate their victim(s). The resources below explore the extent and nature of digital abuse and offer strategies to enhance the safety and privacy of children, teens, and adults experiencing abuse through various digital mediums.

MTV's A Thin Line is a campaign developed to help individuals identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse in their relationships and peer groups. Topics include sexting, constant messaging, spying, digital disrespect, and cruelty. The Digital Rights Project outlines a community-generated "bill of rights" for online engagement.
  • Violence Against Women on the Internet | HTML HTML
    by Diane L. Rosenfeld, Harvard Law School, Berkman Center for Internet & Society (2002)
    This series of 5 online learning modules explores the various ways in which violence against women is facilitated through the use of the Internet, as well as ways in which the Internet may be used as a site of resistance to such violence.
    + View Summary
  • Technology Safety Quick Tips | PDF PDF (5 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (Updated 2011)
    This helpful chart describes the risks of abuse related to a variety of technological devices and outlines safety strategies for each. Types of devices include spyware, keystroke logging hardware, GPS, cell and mobile phones, caller ID and spoofing, faxes, cordless phones, TTY, relay services, email, and hidden cameras.
    + View Summary
  • Safety Planning around Technology: A Guide for Survivors of Domestic and Dating Violence | PDF PDF (20 p.)
    by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence
    This easily accessible resource offers guidance for survivors in planning for safety when digital abuse, stalking, harassment, or monitoring is occurring.
    + View Summary
  • A High-Tech Twist on Abuse | PDF PDF (5 p.)
    by S. Tucker, T. Cremer, C. Fraser, & C. Southworth, Futures Without Violence (December 2005)
    This piece, Article in Volume 1, Issue 2 of the online journal: Family Violence Prevention and Health Practice, describes how abusers are using technology against victims and how victims can use technology to enhance safety.
    + View Summary
  • 2011 AP-MTV Digital Abuse Study Executive Summary | PDF PDF (4 p.)
    by Janice Gatti, MTV & Associated Press (2011)
    This study provides an in-depth look at the prevalence of digital abuse among young people. It was designed to quantify how young people are affected by and respond to issues like sexting, digital harassment and digital dating abuse.
    + View Summary
  • Online Safety 3.0 - on and off the fixed and mobile Internet | HTML HTML
    by ConnectSafely (2010)
    This page provides access to safety tips on a range of topics including GPS location-sharing, cyberbullying, sexting, social networking, video sharing, passwords, and cached content.
    + View Summary
  • Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online | PDF PDF (56 p.)
    by (September 2011)
    This guide offers advice for parents of kids at different ages about safe online socialization and communication, mobile phone use, and peer-to-peer filesharing. It reviews parental controls and privacy protections for pre-teens.
    + View Summary
  • Internet Safety 101: Age-Based Guidelines | HTML HTML
    by Enough Is Enough (2009)
    Each of the five 1-page guides provides information to help parents communicate appropriate rules and expectations regarding internet use and safety according to their child’s age.
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  • Cyberbullying, Sexting, and Predators, Oh My! Addressing Youth Risk in the Digital Age in a Positive and Restorative Manner | PDF PDF (16 p.)
    by Nancy Willard for the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use (July 2011)
    This Issue Brief addresses the key areas of risk associated with the use of digital technologies by young people. The major message presented is that it is necessary to delete the “oh my” reaction and address these concerns in a manner that is positive and restorative.
    + View Summary
  • Tech Savvy Teens: Choosing Who Gets To See Your Info | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (Updated 2008)
    This 2 page handout for teens and students reviews blogs and social networking sites, how information gets online and issues about removing it, web archives, phones and texting, computers and spyware, and ways to protect your privacy.
    + View Summary
Technology has led to tremendous advancements in our society but has also brought more danger to victims of stalking and given more tools for stalkers to use. Stalkers may misuse technology to: send multiple emails or text messages a day, monitor a victim’s computer activity through Spyware, track the location of a victim’s vehicle using GPS, watch the victim through hidden cameras, intercept phone calls and messages, and/or impersonate the victim (NNEDV SafetyNet Project, 2009).

"The motivations and techniques of stalkers have remained remarkably consistent over the years. The tools stalkers use, however, have changed over time... Stalkers exploit technology and use it in ways that the creators never intended or envisioned. Technology has given stalkers new tools, enabling them to reach their victims from afar while infiltrating even deeper into their victims’ everyday lives" (Fraser, Olsen, Lee, Southworth & Tucker, 2010).

The resources below review the tools and tactics used by abusers to stalk, describe the legal protections available to victims, and offer recommendations for enhancing safety and privacy when using various digital mediums.
  • Use of Technology to Stalk Online Training Course | HTML HTML
    by the Stalking Resource Center and National Center for Victims of Crime (2012)
    This interactive online training helps criminal justice professionals and victim service providers recognize how stalkers use technology.
    + View Summary
  • The New Age of Stalking: Technological Implications for Stalking | PDF PDF (17 p.)
    by Cynthia Fraser, Erica Olsen, Kaofeng Lee, Cindy Southworth, and Sarah Tucker for the Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 64(4) of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (2010)
    This article addresses the tremendous impact of technology on stalking, especially within the context of intimate partner stalking.
    + View Summary
  • High‐Tech Stalking | PDF PDF (1 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (2009)
    This one page tipsheet introduces why it's important to respond to the abuse and misuse of technology to stalk and what agencies and partnerships can do.
    + View Summary
  • Intimate Partner Violence, Technology, and Stalking | PDF PDF (16 p.)
    by Cynthia Southworth, Jerry Finn, Shawndell Dawson, Cynthia Fraser, and Sarah Tucker for Violence Against Women, 13(8) (August 2007)
    This research note describes the use of a broad range of technologies in intimate partner stalking, including cordless and cellular telephones, fax machines, e-mail, Internet-based harassment, global positioning systems, spy ware, video cameras, and online databases.
    + View Summary
  • A High-Tech Twist on Abuse: Technology, Intimate Partner Stalking, and Advocacy | PDF PDF (22 p.) HTML HTML
    by C. Southworth, S. Dawson, C. Fraser, & S. Tucker, Violence Against Women Online Resources (2005)
    This paper highlights published literature and survivor's reports on the use of technology in intimate partner stalking. It includes safety strategies and a resource list for victim advocates.
    + View Summary
  • Who's Spying on Your Computer? Spyware, Surveillance, and Safety for Survivors | PDF PDF (4 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (Updated 2008)
    Do you want to know what spyware is, how it works, how it can end up secretly monitoring your computer? This handout answers those questions, discusses risks, and provides safety tips for survivors of abuse, for organizations that assist victims, and for parents.
    + View Summary
  • Hang Up on Harassment: Dealing with Cellular Phone Abuse | HTML HTML
    by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (Updated September 2012)
    With cell phones fast becoming the primary way of communicating, harassing phone calls can be especially distressing and disruptive. This fact sheet outlines steps to take if you receive harassing calls, text messages, or spam.
    + View Summary
  • Cell Phone: Location Tracking and Sharing | PDF PDF (4 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (2011)
    This tipsheet describes many location-based services used on cell phones and explains different ways that a cell phone's location can be tracked; describes the risks and benefits of location-based applications and services for cell phones; and addresses geotags and other files that phones keep that might be accessed by perpetrators to find out a victim's real-time or past locations.
    + View Summary
  • Comments on the Federal Trade Commission's Spyware Workshop | PDF PDF (5 p.)
    by Cindy Southworth, MSW of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Federal Trade Commission
    In an effort to assist the FTC with its careful evaluation of the issues surrounding the proliferation of spyware software and technology, NNEDV submited comments emphasizing the dangers to victims of domestic violence that result from the use of spyware.
    + View Summary
  • Every Step You Take… Every Move You Make… My GPS Unit Will Be Watching You | PDF PDF (8 p.) HTML HTML (8 p.)
    by Michael Rosenwald, Popular Science Magazine (November 2004)
    This article describes several tactics employed by abusers to track victims using technology. “Technology may be ushering in a golden age of stalking, in which predators use GPS, cellphones and other devices to track and terrorize.”
    + View Summary
  • New Frontiers of Stalking - Video Voyeurism | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by Newsletter Volume 3, Number 1, Stalking Resource Center (Winter 2003)
    This article provides an overview of stalkers’ use of new technology to monitor their victim's movements, and discusses legal protections for victims of video voyeurism.
    + View Summary
The use of communications technology to harm, threaten, or otherwise victimize another person is often referred to as "cyberbullying." Harrassing behaviors in the digital world have been described as "constant messaging," "textual harassment," and even "digital disrespect" in youth culture. Experiences of digital harassment and bullying are as varied as the multiple platforms and mediums used by digital abusers, such as cell phones, social networks, virtual worlds, and gaming communities. The resources below review some of the ways that abusers use technology to harass and bully, and describe some of the protections available to their victims.

Nearly three in 10 of 14-24 year olds surveyed said their partner has checked up on them multiple times a day online or via mobile – asking where they are, who they’re with or what they’re doing – (27%), or read their text messages without permission (27%). (Gatti, 2011)

  • Cyberbullying and Sexual Harassment: FAQs about Cyberbullying and Title IX | HTML HTML (2 p.)
    by the National Women’s Law Center (February 2012)
    This fact sheet describes cyberbullying, its intersections with sexual harassment, and the application of Title IX which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools. It provides guidance to schools, students, and families in addressing these crimes.
    + View Summary
  • In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real | HTML HTML
    by Amy O’Leary for the New York Times (August 1, 2012)
    The article reports, “Sexism, racism, homophobia and general name-calling are longstanding facts of life in certain corners of online video games. But the Cross Assault episode was the first of a series this year that have exposed the severity of the harassment that many women experience in virtual gaming communities.”
    + View Summary
  • Dealing with Cyberbullies | HTML HTML (2 p.)
    by Mindi McDowell, US-CERT (2006)
    This article offers information about cyberbullying, describing what it is, why it has become such a problem, and ways that individuals can protect themselves from cyberbullies.
    + View Summary
  • Addressing the Gendered Dimensions of Harassment and Bullying: What domestic and sexual violence advocates need to know | PDF PDF (17 p.)
    by Nan D. Stein, Ed.D. & Kelly A. Mennemeier, B.A. for the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence & National Sexual Violence Resource Center (October 2011)
    This paper clarifies the distinctions between bullying and harassment and the priorities and responsibilities of school districts, explores the unintended consequences of ignoring the gendered dimensions of bullying and harassment in K-12 schools, and suggests helpful strategies for advocates collaborating with school personnel and students.
    + View Summary
Human Trafficking
Traffickers of women and children use technology to facilitate communication between and within networks, communicate with and recruit victims, advertise trafficked women, and identify markets for the purposes of sexual abuse, exploitation, and domestic servitude (Maltzahn, 2006). The resources below review some of the ways that technology has been used in human trafficking and provide recommendations for addressing the problem.

  • Human Trafficking Online: The Role of Social Networking Sites and Online Classifieds | PDF PDF (56 p.)
    by Mark Latonero for the University of Southern California Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (September 2011)
    This report presents a comprehensive examination of the role of social networking sites and online classified ads in facilitating human trafficking and delivers recommendations for developing technological innovations to monitor and combat trafficking.
    + View Summary
  • Digital Dangers: Information & Communication Technologies and Trafficking in Women | PDF PDF (12 p.)
    by Kathleen Maltzahn (2006)
    This paper discusses the ways that the internet and other information and communication technologies aid the trafficking of women.
    + View Summary
  • Sex Trafficking Via The Internet: How International Agreements Address The Problem And Fail To Go Far Enough | PDF PDF (49 p.)
    by Erin I. Kunze for the Journal of High Technology Law (2010)
    This paper describes how the Internet has become a resource for sex traffickers to sell women and children for sexual exploitation while concealing their own identities and recommends the implementation of international human rights law explicitly criminalizing Internet-facilitated sex trafficking.
    + View Summary
Child Sexual Abuse/Exploitation
Parents, educators, caregivers, and others can help children make responsible choices on the web and develop healthy online relationships. According to iKeepSafe, resilient digital citizens recognize and seek out 3Cs —appropriate contact, content, and conduct — in all digital settings including iPods, instant messaging, chat, computer games, game consoles, cell phones, text messaging, and webcams. The resources listed below provide starting points for providing guidance to children and youth in safely navigating their own online presence, and review the extent of the problem of child sexual abuse and exploitation online.

NetSmartzKids is a program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Designed for children ages 5-17, parents and guardians, educators, and law enforcement, the program offers resources such as videos, games, activity cards, and presentations.
  • Internet Predators - DOJ's Project Safe Child Initiative | HTML HTML [32:08]
    by DC Public Safety (January 15, 2009)
    This podcast features an interview with Marsali Hancock, president of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, working in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency under DOJ's Project Safe Childhood initiative.
    + View Summary
  • A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety | HTML HTML
    by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2007)
    This guide is intended to help parents and caregivers begin to understand the complexities of on-line child exploitation.
    + View Summary
  • Online 'Predators' and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment | PDF PDF (18 p.)
    by Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly J. Mitchell, & Michele L. Ybarra for the University of New Hampshire, Internet Solutions for Kids, Inc (2008)
    This article summarizes current research on online sexual victimization and compares it to media accounts.
    + View Summary
  • The National Juvenile Online Victim Study: Methodology Report | PDF PDF (17 p.)
    by K. Mitchell, J. Wolak, and D. Finkelhor, Crimes Against Children Research Center (2009)
    Information from a national sample of law enforcement agencies about the prevalence of arrests for and characteristics of Internet sex crimes against minors.
    + View Summary
  • Internet Pornography and Child Exploitation | PDF PDF (54 p.)
    by the United States Department of Justice (November 2006)
    This U.S. Attorney's Bulletin contains articles dealing with establishing federal jurisdiction, evidence gathering, child victim issues, and other subjects related to internet pornography and child sexual exploitation.
    + View Summary
  • Child-Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings from the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study | PDF PDF (64 p.)
    by Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, & Kimberly Mitchell, NCMEC (2005)
    "This report focuses on a representative national sample of arrested offenders who possessed child pornography". The report includes major findings and conclusions from this sample and recommendations and resources for law-enforcement and prosecutors.
    + View Summary
  • Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors: The Response of Law Enforcement | PDF PDF (36 p.)
    by Janis Wolak, Kimberly Mitchell, & David Finkelhor, OJJDP (2003)
    This report provides an overview of arrests, types of crimes, characteristcs of offenders and ways that the criminal justice system is handling internet sex crimes against minors.
    + View Summary
  • Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation's Youth | PDF PDF (62 p.)
    by David Finkelhor, Kimberly Mitchell, & Janis Wolak, NCMEC (June 2000)
    This report describes the responses of youth who were surveyed about their use of the internet and experiences while online, which includes exposure to unwanted sexual material and harassment.
    + View Summary
  • Violence Against Children in Cyberspace | PDF PDF (96 p.)
    by Deborah Muir, ECPAT International (September 2005)
    This report is intended to provide a framework for promoting recognition and understanding of the real risks of violence for children and young people in cyberspace and through the use of new technologies, in particular the internet and mobile phones.
    + View Summary
Sexting is the act of sending or receiving sexually suggestive or explicit messages or images via communications technology. Depending on the circumstances and context, sexting might include illegal or nonconsensual activities, harassment, grooming or coercion, sexual exploitation, or impersonation (NNEDV Safety Net Project, 2011). The resources below review some of the implications and consequences of sexting.

That's Not Cool is a campaign to help teens draw a "digital line" in their relationships when they experience pressure or disrespect through the use of various communication technologies. The website offers callout cards and an online forum for discussing topics including textual harassment, pic pressure, constant messaging, and rumors.
  • Sexting | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (2011)
    This short tip sheet defines sexting, highlights different forms of sexting, and discusses how sexting is relevant to anti-violence agencies, partnerships and communities.
    + View Summary
  • Teens and Sexting: How and why minor teens are sending sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images via text messaging | PDF PDF (16 p.)
    by Amanda Lenhart for the Pew Internet & American Life Project (December 2009)
    This report provides information on the prevalence of cell phone use among teenagers, as well as frequency and reasons for sending sexually explicit messages on their mobile devices.
    + View Summary
  • Sexting: Youth Practices and Legal Implications | PDF PDF (46 p.)
    by Dena Sacco, Rebecca Argudin, James Maguire, Kelly Tallong and Cyberlaw Clinic for the The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (June 22, 2010)
    This document addresses legal and practical issues related to the practice colloquially known as sexting. It discusses the statutory and constitutional framework for child pornography and obscenity, and reviews current and pending legislation meant to address sexting.
    + View Summary
Social Media/Networking
The web has evolved into a place where its users are the primary generators of content. Social networks provide limitless opportunities for sharing information, photos, videos, links, art, etc. Not all information that is shared online is intended to be accessible to millions of viewers, and there are inherent safety and privacy risks that survivors may face when participating in social media. The resources below promote the informed use of social media by children, teens, and adults concerned about the risk of abuse.

  • Privacy & Safety on Facebook: A Guide for Survivors of Abuse | PDF PDF (9 p.)
    by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (July 2013)
    This guide addresses privacy on Facebook, as well as safety tips and options for when someone is misusing the site to harass, monitor, threaten, or stalk. It refers back to Facebook’s Help Center in several places for more detailed information on settings and features.
    + View Summary
  • Tech Top 10 Tips: Social Media Use by Survivors | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape & Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2011)
    In recognition of the increasing role that social media plays in the lives of survivors as well as programs and staff, this tool addresses the benefits and risks of social media use by people who have experienced sexual and domestic violence.
    + View Summary
  • Privacy Considerations When Posting Content Online | PDF PDF (1 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (2010)
    For those who want to be more protective of their online information, this handout provides some questions to consider when posting content online.
    + View Summary
  • ABA Podcast: Online Privacy Rights | HTML HTML [17:40]
    by Lee Rawles for the ABA Journal (May 2012)
    ABA Journal web producer Lee Rawles talks with Lori Andrews, author of I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy about the lack of online privacy rights and the need for a social media constitution.
    + View Summary
  • Social Networking Privacy: How to be Safe, Secure and Social | HTML HTML
    by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (Updated August 2012)
    This fact sheet reviews advantages and disadvantages of using social networks, what kind of information may be safe to post and how to protect it, as well as who is able to access different types of information posted to these networks.
    + View Summary
  • The Perils and Pitfalls of Online Dating: How to Protect Yourself | HTML HTML
    by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (August 2012)
    This fact sheet provides information on the potential advantages and disadvantages of using online dating services, and offers tips to greater protect yourself and your data from abuse.
    + View Summary
  • A Parent’s Guide to Facebook | PDF PDF (35 p.)
    by Anne Collier and Larry Magid for and iKeepSafe (February 2012)
    This guide was designed to teach parents how to help their teens strengthen their privacy and safety on Facebook. It discusses managing reputation, risks, privacy, and reporting problems.
    + View Summary

Data Security and Privacy | Back to top

The internet is a treasure trove of information about individuals. Information can be shared by individuals through social media and their online activities; through marketers and information brokers; and through institutions such as employers, government, and schools. Some victims of violence may have higher privacy risks than other individuals. The resources below offer information on protecting the privacy and security of sensitive and personal information on the Web.

"Browsing the web safely and privately is concern for many people. A good general rule is that nothing online is private. Another general rule is that you can’t be completely anonymous online" (NNEDV SafetyNet Project, 2010).

  • Online Privacy & Safety Tips | PDF PDF (1 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (2010)
    This 1-page handout provides tips for preventing sensitive and personal information from making its rounds on the Web. It highlights email, passwords, social networks, online accounts, and safe web browsing.
    + View Summary
  • Privacy & Safety on Facebook: A Guide for Survivors of Abuse | PDF PDF (9 p.)
    by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (July 2013)
    This guide addresses privacy on Facebook, as well as safety tips and options for when someone is misusing the site to harass, monitor, threaten, or stalk. It refers back to Facebook’s Help Center in several places for more detailed information on settings and features.
    + View Summary
  • Online Privacy: Using the Internet Safely | HTML HTML
    by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (Updated August 2012)
    This page reviews internet activities that reveal your personal information, how others can get information about your online privacy, and what to know about cloud computing.
    + View Summary
  • Fact Sheet 21: Children's Online Privacy | HTML HTML
    by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse/UCAN (March 2006)
    This resource guide for parents/guardians provides information about the benefits of the internet for children as well as the dangers. It also offers a variety of links to resources, organizations and information.
    + View Summary
Computers & Networks
  • Protecting the Information on Your Shared Computer | HTML HTML
    by GetNetWise (2008)
    This resource page offers tips and tools for erasing traces of your Internet browsing from your computer and keeping files and data hidden from others.
    + View Summary
  • Secure File Deletion: Fact or Fiction? | PDF PDF (17 p.)
    by John R. Mallery, SANS Institute (2006)
    This document describes how information contained in deleted files on one's personal hard drive may be recoverable or found in other files. Describes methods for secure file deletion, including a list of resources for free and commercial tools.
    + View Summary
  • 10 Tips for Wireless Home Network Security | HTML HTML
    by Bradley Mitchell for
    This article provides recommendations for improving the security of your home wireless network, such as changing default administrator passwords, using encryption, changing the default SSID, and enabling firewalls on each computer and the router.
    + View Summary
  • Computers and Networks | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (Updated 2008)
    How agencies and innovative partnerships use their computers and networks impacts the safety and confidentiality of services for victims and survivors, and their children. This tip sheet briefly highlights benefits, risks and things to consider.
    + View Summary
Public Records & Address Confidentiality
Address Confidentiality Programs (ACPs) and Confidential Voter Listings are state-administered programs that allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or other types of crime to receive mail at a confidential address, while keeping their actual address undisclosed. While ACPs generally provide a substitute address for all public records, Confidential Voter Listings only provide confidentiality on election-related public records. Over half of the states in the country now offer these life-saving programs (NRCDV, 2012).
  • Public Records on the Internet: The Privacy Dilemma | HTML HTML (10 p.)
    by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (Updated March 2006)
    Discusses the privacy implications of making public records containing personal information available on the Internet. Lists 9 negative consequences and offers 11 recommendations for safeguarding personal privacy while upholding public policy requirements.
    + View Summary
  • Domestic Violence and Voter Registration: Safety Considerations | PDF PDF (4 p.)
    by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (August 2012)
    This document offers guidance about safety considerations for domestic violence survivors when registering to vote.
    + View Summary
  • Voter Confidentiality Programs | HTML HTML
    by the National Network to End Domestic Violence
    This page includes a contact list with Address Confidentiality Programs or Confidential Voter Listings for all 28 states that offer such options.
    + View Summary
  • Voter Privacy in the Digital Age | HTML HTML (65 p.) PDF PDF (65 p.)
    by Kim Alexander and Keith Mills, The California Voter Foundation (May 2004)
    Report on a nationwide, state-by-state survey on voter registration data and the privacy implications of data-gathering and dissemination practices. Designed to inform the development of policy solutions that address voter privacy in the digital age.
    + View Summary
  • Address Confidentiality Programs | PDF PDF (3 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (2009)
    This chart outlines the protections of various states' ACPs, the legislation that created or supports these ACPs and other relevant program information.
    + View Summary
  • Privacy, Technology and Criminal Justice Information: Public Attitudes towards Uses of Criminal History Information | PDF PDF (79 p.)
    by U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (July 2001)
    Summarizes findings on public attitudes toward the availability and use of individuals' criminal history records outside of the criminal justice system.
    + View Summary
Social Security & Identity Change
Obtaining a new social security number and establishing a new identity is one safety protection available to victims of domestic violence that may be life saving. However, there are many issues to carefully consider before pursuing this option, which are reviewed in the resources below.
  • Myths & Realities of Identity Change | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by NNEDV SafetyNet Project and Valenda Applegarth of Greater Boston Legal Services (2008)
    This 2 page handout addresses common issues for victims who are considering changing their identity (e.g. name, US social security number, birth certificate, etc.) as part of an attempt to remain safe and hidden from an abuser or stalker.
    + View Summary
  • Identity Change: Practical and Legal Considerations | PDF PDF (16 p.)
    by Christine M. Durkin & Valenda Applegarth for the Relocation Counseling Project, Greater Boston Legal Services (Summer 2000)
    This document contains practice tips for advocates, prepared for use in Greater Boston Legal Services' Relocation Counseling Project. Includes information about name change and social security number change.
    + View Summary
  • New Numbers For Domestic Violence Victims | HTML HTML
    y the U.S. Social Security Administration (August 2011)
    This resource describes the option of obtaining a new social security number for victims of domestic violence or harassment, explains the application process, and outlines key considerations.
    + View Summary
Data Vendors/Marketing
Advertisers and marketers are constantly searching for information about individuals. This information can become available online for anyone to access, including abusers, perpetrators and stalkers. This short video below from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) reviews the ways that search companies and advertisers collect, track, use, and sell your personal data.

  • Online Information Brokers and Your Privacy | HTML HTML (6 p.)
    by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (Updated February 2011)
    This tip sheet includes steps to take to guard personal information from appearing in directory listings and public records. Includes a detailed listing of data vendors with complete contact information for each.
    + View Summary
Federal Protections
VAWA 2005 included enhanced protections for victim information in multiple arenas, including in public records and databases. With this provision, Congress clarified and affirmed existing confidentiality practices that protect the safety and privacy of victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (NNEDV, 2006). Effective April 21, 2000, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives parents control over what personal information websites can collect from their children under 13. The resources below provide additional detail on these important legal protections.
  • An Update on VAWA & Confidentiality | PDF PDF (3 p.)
    by Safety Net: the National Safe & Strategic Technology Project, National Network to End Domestic Violence (January 2006)
    This document provides an analysis of HMIS-related provisions contained in VAWA 2005, signed into law on January 5, 2006. Describes how new VAWA provisions protect victim information under Section 3 and Section 605.
    + View Summary
  • How to Comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule | PDF PDF (20 p.)
    by the Federal Trade Commission (December 2006)
    The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, effective April 21, 2000, applies to the online collection of personal information from children under 13. This guide reviews the requirements for protecting children's privacy online and understanding the FTC's enforcement authority.
    + View Summary

Considerations for Advocates and Organizations Serving Survivors of Abuse | Back to top

Advocating on Behalf of Victims of Technology Abuse
The resources provided below provide advocacy tips for enhancing safety and justice for victims of digital abuse.
The Technology & Confidentiality Resources Toolkit is a resource for non-profit victim service agencies and advocates working to provide safe and effective services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. It was developed by NNEDV's Safety Net Project, The Confidentiality Institute, and the U.S. DOJ Office of Violence Against Women.
  • Assisting Survivors with Personal Privacy Management: Digital Technology and Safety Information Booklet | PDF PDF (22 p.)
    by The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (2012)
    This booklet expands on technology safety tips, providing guidance and best practice information for assisting survivors to protect their safety and preserve their privacy when using social media and personal electronic devices.
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  • Technology Safety Planning with Survivors: Tips to discuss if someone you know is in danger | PDF PDF (1 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (Updated 2008)
    This handout provides some simple but critical tips about phone, computer, email, instant messaging and other technology use to discuss if someone you know is in danger. It is available in the following seven languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Somali, and Russian.
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  • Safety Tips For Using Computers & Cell Phones | PDF PDF (22 p.)
    by The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (2012)
    This handout developed for survivors of domestic and sexual violence provides tips for the safer use of computers and cell phones. It reviews privacy settings, passwords, GPS tracking, and documentation.
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  • Domestic Violence and Privacy | HTML HTML
    by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
    This page reviews key electronic privacy issues impacting victims of domestic violence, including HMIS, identity theft, personal surveillance, REAL ID, VAWA, telephone records, personal data, government records, and provider confidentiality.
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  • Technology and Teen Dating Violence | PDF PDF (4 p.)
    by Break the Cycle (December 2008)
    This document discusses the challenges service providers face because of advanced technology when working with young people who experience dating violence. The document provides suggestions for teaching young people to use technology safely.
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Data Security and Privacy Protections
The resources below address security considerations specific to the computers, databases, and networks of programs serving victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking.

  • Data Security Checklist to Increase Victim Safety & Privacy | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (Updated 2008)
    For use by local domestic violence and rape crisis service programs and other community service providers, this checklist is a starting point in discussing client safety and data security for agencies.
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  • Computers and Networks | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (Updated 2008)
    How agencies and innovative partnerships use their computers and networks impacts the safety and confidentiality of services for victims and survivors, and their children. This tip sheet briefly highlights benefits, risks and things to consider.
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  • Selecting A Database | PDF PDF (6 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (2011)
    This chart provides agencies with an easy way to answer key questions to consider when selecting a database.
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  • Reshape Issue 3: Technology | PDF PDF (20 p.)
    by Sexual Assault Coalition Resource Sharing Project
    In this edition, Reshape explores the successes and challenges faced by coalitions around the country related to technology. The articles are intended to help coalitions use technology in the ways that best suit their needs.
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Online Service Provision
As the Web continues to evolve as a primary tool for communication worldwide, service providers must consider how to respond to increasing requests for assistance through online channels. The resources below review considerations for domestic and sexual violence programs exploring the structure and provision of online services. Of key importance is that we must prioritize accessibility in the development of online services to ensure that that they are fully accessible to all people, including people with disabilities. To support this process, please see the federal statute on online website accessibility (Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act) and various helpful website accessibility tools available through WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind.

Love Is Respect offers a live chat with a trained peer advocate for information and support.

RAINN provides an online crisis hotline for victims of sexual assault and their loved ones.

  • Assessing Organizational Readiness To Provide Online Advocacy & Services | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by C. Fraser, NNEDV Safety Net and C. Fribley, National Sexual Assault Resource Sharing Project, National Sexual Violence Resource Center (Spring/Summer 2005)
    Discusses how organizations can prepare to advocate with and support survivors around the use of online services. Includes safety, confidentiality and capacity issues that organizations should address when considering provision of online TA or counseling.
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  • Domestic Violence Organizations Online: Risks, Ethical Dilemmas, and Liability Issues | PDF PDF (22 p.)
    by Jerry Finn (August 2002)
    This paper outlines risk and liability issues related to Internet use by domestic violence organizations, suggests risk-management guidelines to protect them from liability, and includes recommendations to further understanding re: online services.
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  • The Practical Aspects of Online Counseling: Ethics, Training, Technology, and Competency | PDF PDF (43 p.)
    by Michael Mallen, David Vogel, & Aaron Rochlen, The Counseling Psychologist (2005)
    This article addresses the strengths and limitations of online counseling. It also offers information on present guidelines for when and who online counseling may be appropriate.
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  • Providing Counseling Online: Because We “Can,” Should We? | HTML HTML (4 p.)
    by Pamela K. S. Patrick, Ph.D., Counseling Outfitters (2006)
    This article reviews characteristics of the typical online counseling consumer, risks associated with online counseling, and ethical issues to consider when thinking about implementing online counseling practices.
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  • Survivors of intimate violence seek help online: Implications of responding to increasing requests | PDF PDF (14 p.)
    by Ann Kranz (March 2001)
    Documenting a 1-year study of unsolicited email requests sent to VAWOR, this paper focuses on the nature of help-seeking emails and recommends that a strategic plan be developed to address safety, confidentiality and liability concerns of online advocacy.
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Online Presence: Websites and Social Media
Programs serving victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking have particular concerns when it comes to agency participation in online communities. The resources below review some considerations and offer tips for responsible engagement online.
There are many mobile applications that utilize smartphone technology to provide tools that promote individuals' safety, enhance screening and response, and raise awareness about domestic and dating violence, sexual abuse, and stalking. View the Women of Color Network Apps Directory (September 2012) for a list of available mobile applications.
  • Tech Top 10 Guidelines: Social Media Use by Programs & Staff | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape & Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2011)
    In recognition of the increasing role that social media plays in the lives of survivors as well as programs and staff, this tool addresses the benefits and risks of social media use within anti-violence programs.
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  • Social Networking & Privacy Tips for Domestic & Sexual Violence Programs | PDF PDF (1 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (2010)
    This one page handout introduces a few important safety risks and confidentiality considerations for advocates and organizations participating in social media.
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  • Website Safety: Tips For Advocacy Organizations | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the NNEDV SafetyNet Project (2009)
    It is important that advocacy organizations take steps to alert survivors about online safety risks such as computer monitoring and spyware.
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Helpful resources | Back to top

This list of websites includes organizations working to promote the safe use of technology. Comments and content suggestions are welcome via VAWnet’s Online Contact Form.

Beehive Guide to Internet Safety
The website is separated into the areas of: Family Safety, Identity Safety and Computer Safety. Each section is a media-rich, easy-to-access module that includes videos of real-life stories, easy computer demos on security settings and simple definitions for technology jargon.

Connect Safely
ConnectSafely is for parents, teens, educators, advocates - everyone engaged in and interested in the impact of the social Web. This site provides resources for learning about safe, civil use of Web 2.0 together.

Center for Democracy and Technology
The Center for Democracy and Technology works to promote democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age. With expertise in law, technology, and policy, CDT seeks practical solutions to enhance free expression and privacy in global communications technologies. CDT is dedicated to building consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.

Electronic Privacy Information Center
EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C. It was established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values.

Enough is Enough
EIE is a non-profit organization whose mission is to make the Internet safer for children and families, having pioneered efforts to confront online pornography, child pornography, child stalking, sexual predation, and other forms of online victimization.

Gender IT is the result of months of researching, classifying, interpreting and monitoring ICT policies which affect women around the world, but specifically in four regions – Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central Eastern Europe and Latin America.

A public service sponsored by internet industry corporations and public interest organizations to help ensure that internet users have safe, constructive, and educational or entertaining online experiences.

The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe), established in 2005, is a nonprofit international alliance of more than 100 policy leaders, educators, law enforcement members, technology experts, public health experts and advocates. Educational materials, including worksheets and tests, are available for parents, educators, communities, and youth.

International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet
The International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI) works toward the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities. As an internationally recognized public policy center organized by and for people with disabilities, ICDRI seeks to increase opportunities for people with disabilities by identifying barriers to participation in society and promoting best practices and universal design for the global community.

i-SAFE Inc
i-SAFE Inc. is the worldwide leader in the Internet safety education. Founded in 1998 and endorsed by the U.S. Congress, i-SAFE is a non-profit foundation dedicated to protecting the online experiences of youth everywhere. i-SAFE incorporates classroom curriculum with dynamic community outreach to empower students, teachers, parents, law enforcement, and concerned adults to make the Internet a safer place.

Microsoft Safety & Security Center
This site provides resources related to computer security, digital privacy, and online safety. Includes a section on family safety.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers information on keeping kids safe online, NetSmartz educational tools, and a cyber tipline.

National Cyber Security Alliance (
The National Cyber Security Alliance provides tools and resources to empower home users, small businesses, and schools, colleges, and universities to stay safe online.

Net Family News
A nonprofit public service providing a forum and "kid-tech news" for parents and educators in more than 50 countries. The forum is 24/7; news is weekly via email and podcast and daily via blog and RSS feed. Featuring the Net Family Newsletter, the journal-of-record on tech and digital media where children are concerned (since 1997) - distributed in partnership with and London-based Childnet International.

OnGuard Online
The Federal Trade Commission bureau of consumer protection offers information on internet safety.

Pew Internet & American Life Project
The Pew Internet & American Life Project produces reports that explore the impact of the Internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life. The Project aims to be an authoritative source on the evolution of the Internet through collection of data and analysis of real-world developments as they affect the virtual world.

Polaris Project
Polaris Project is one of the leading organizations in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Their National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) is a nonprofit consumer organization with a two-part mission -- consumer information and consumer advocacy. It is primarily grant-supported and serves individuals nationwide, offering information for parents on children's privacy and safety on the Internet.

Stalking Resource Center
The mission of the Stalking Resource Center, a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, is to enhance the ability of professionals, organizations, and systems to effectively respond to stalking. They offer a great deal of resources on The Use of Technology to Stalk.

SafetyEd International
SafetyEd International is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 and dedicated to Internet safety education, child advocacy and child protection.

Tech Safety Videos from SafetyNet Australia
This YouTube playlist provides collection of videos that are useful for learning about technology safety.
The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary is a free online dictionary of computer and technology terms. The goal of is to explain computer terms, rather than simply define them. Therefore, the definitions are written in a way that is easy to understand and often include helpful examples.

Webopedia is an online dictionary and search engine for computer and Internet technology definitions.

Wired Safety
Wired Safety is an Internet safety and help group that provides education, assistance, and awareness on all aspects of cybercrime and abuse, privacy, security, and responsible technology use.
WomensLaw providing legal information and online support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. They have a section on their website dedicated to Internet Security.

Working to Halt Abuse Online
WHO@ is a volunteer organization founded in 1997 to fight online harassment through education of the general public, education of law enforcement personnel, and empowerment of victims. We've also formulated voluntary policies which we encourage online communities to adopt in order to create safe and welcoming environments for all internet users.