To Us, #TechSafetyMeans…

Technology allows us to quickly and easily connect with other people. Technology can be a valuable resource for survivors, granting them access to information, resources, emergency services, and networks of support. However, technology is also often misused by perpetrators to stalk, harass, and control victims. For example, offenders can manipulate technology to track and stalk victims. They can also install spyware on survivors’ devices to secretly monitor and harass them. By hacking or inappropriately accessing a survivor’s webcam, hard drive, or online accounts, abusers can gain access to personal information which can be used to locate the survivor or as blackmail.

The Safety Net project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) addresses the intersection of technology and domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and dating violence. Since technology permeates many aspects of our lives, we at NNEDV strive to ensure that survivors and advocates can utilize technology safely, effectively, and securely.

To us, #TechSafetyMeans...

  • Supporting survivors at the local level.
  • Making connections and serving survivors through strong statewide networks.
  • Advocating for privacy and digital safety at the national level in government, with tech companies, and other allied agencies.
  • Ensuring survivors know how to safeguard their privacy and maintain safety on all their devices.
  • Creating communities where perpetrators cannot use technology to their advantage.
  • Advocating for change that benefits all survivors!

What’s the Deal with Snap Map?

snap map image

Snapchat recently released a new feature called Snap Map. It was immediately met with a flurry of negative feedback and concerns for user privacy and safety. As with any technology, device, platform, or service, new features can have an unexpected impact on user safety and privacy. The following is our assessment of potential privacy issues and possibilities for misuse within Snap Map.

The Snap Map feature allows users to share their location with other friends on Snapchat and to share Snaps on a map. The ability for others to see your location can definitely sound a little creepy, particularly if you’re concerned about your privacy. While there are a few things to consider and be aware of to protect your privacy, there are also a few features that make us a little less worried about Snap Map.

1.     The user controls the feature, and therefore controls their privacy.
Snap Map is an opt-in feature, not an opt-out feature; meaning it is off by default until a user chooses to turn it on. Opt-in by default is an important safety feature, but it is noteworthy that a person with access to the account could still turn on location sharing without the account owner’s knowledge. Because of this, it’s important that users know how to find the location sharing setting so that they can check to see if someone has turned it on without their permission.

2.     Users also control the audience, even if the feature is on.
If you choose to use Snap Map, you can keep it in Ghost Mode. Ghost Mode means that your location isn’t shared with anyone at all, but that you are able to see yourself on the map. You can also choose between sharing your location with all of your friends, or with just a few select friends. Ghost Mode is the default setting when you have opted into using the Snap Map feature, that way you don’t share your location with anyone unless you choose to, even if you open the feature to check it out. If you decide to no longer share your location, even with a few selected friends, you last location is removed from the map.

3.     Submitted Snaps don’t show username, but images can still be identifying.
You can submit a Snap to “Our Story” to be shared on the Snap Map, although not all submitted Snaps are accepted to be on the Snap Map. Ones that are accepted do not show the username of the person who submitted it, but it will show up on the Snap Map at or near your location. Certain information in the Snap could make it more identifying (signs or landmarks can identify exact location, and clothing or tattoos can identify a person, even if their face isn’t shown). Also, users should be aware that Snaps submitted to “Our Story” may show on Snap Map regardless of their chosen location setting. This is important to consider, especially if other people are in your Snaps and you don’t have their permission to share.

4.     Notifications for the win!
We are always fans of user notifications when there is a feature that could be a potential safety and privacy risk. Snapchat will send reminders if location sharing has been left on for a period of time; making sure that users know their location is being shared. These notifications can also greatly decrease the chance that someone could turn on someone else’s Snap Map without their knowledge.

5.     When you’re sharing, you’re always sharing.
It’s really important to understand that once you opt-in and choose an audience to share your location with, that audience will continually be able to see your updated location every time you open the app, whether or not you are engaging with them or sending anyone a Snap. This might be the biggest concern, since if people don’t clearly understand this they may inadvertently share their location without realizing it.

Overall, Snap Map definitely makes it easier for people to share—and to receive—information about another person’s location. As with similar features on other platforms, users should be cautious and make informed, thoughtful decisions on how to protect their privacy; including if, when, and how they use it. It’s also really important to consider the privacy of others. You might not know what could be a safety or privacy risk for each of your friends, so you should never share images, videos, or location information about others without their consent. The good news is that this feature does have some built-in privacy options and gives users control over what is shared. Learn more about manage your location settings in Snap Map and check out SnapChat’s Approach to Privacy

NNEDV Resource Highlight: Safety on Social Media

Social Media Harassment
Online Harassment

It’s Social Media Day!

 

Technology, including social media, has a major impact on survivors of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and dating violence. While it can be used to access resources, remain connected to family and friends, and hold offenders accountable, it can also be misused by perpetrators to abuse, harass, stalk, and harm victims. 

NNEDV’s Safety Net project provides resources for survivors to recognize signs of technology-facilitated abuse, increase safety online, and learn about legal actions that can be taken against technology misuse.

Learn more about the ways that survivors can increase safety on social media:

When in doubt, download our Tech Safety App! 

The Tech Safety App helps users identify and address technology-facilitated abuse, including the misuse of social media. Download it from Google Play and the iTunes App Store – it’s free! (We will also be launching a Spanish version of this app in July!)

If you have additional questions about helping survivors stay safe on social media – or any other technology safety questions, please reach out to our Safety Net team: safetynet@nnedv.org.

Safety Net Project's International Work Expands

We are thrilled to announce a new international partnership! The Safety Net Project is teaming up with a coalition of domestic violence programs in the Netherlands to assist in building and launching SafetyNED - a national project focused on supporting online privacy and security for victims of domestic violence.

Next week, NNEDV’s Executive Vice President and founder of NNEDV’s Safety Net Project Cindy Southworth and Safety Net Technology Safety Specialist Corbin Streett will spend the week meeting with key stakeholders and technology companies, training new tech advocates, and participating in the 2017 Combine Congress.

In our 17 years of working on this issue, we’ve learned how critical it is for everyone to be working together and to be a part of this conversation. From advocates and service providers to law enforcement, policymakers, and technology companies, the collective knowledge, skills, and expertise of everyone is needed to address the multifaceted needs of survivors and move forward towards an end to violence. We’re delighted to be part of this new project and to be coming together on June 22 for the Combine Congress. Working in partnership, our collective efforts can truly make a difference!

*UPDATED: Preserving Victim Privacy While Increasing Law Enforcement Transparency: Finding the balance with Open Police Data Initiatives

We are pleased to announce the release of a package of resources to support law enforcement, advocates and communities in in efforts to ensure victim privacy and safety while increasing transparency through Open Data and the Police Data Initiative.

First released in January of this year, “How Law Enforcement Agencies Releasing Open Data Can Protect Victim Privacy & Safety” was written together with the Police Foundation for law enforcement agencies. This guide describes the need for victim privacy to be a central consideration in efforts to share data with the public, including specific recommendations.

A companion handout written for advocates is now also available. This resource emphasizes the importance of advocates’ involvement in decisions to release police data online, and includes basic information to support advocates in joining those conversations.

Supplementing these written resources, we are making available a pre-recorded webinar conversation between representatives of NNEDV, the Police Foundation, and privacy experts from the Vera Institute, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University.

Background from previous post:

One of the hallmark efforts of the Obama administration was to improve the relationship between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Work to increase “open data” included the Police Data Initiative, which encouraged local jurisdictions to provide access to information about 911 calls, stops, arrests and other police activities so that members of those local communities could look both at individual cases, as in some high-profile events covered by the media, and at trends that might reveal disproportionate response over time.

Over the more than two decades since the Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994, we have seen improvements in criminal justice system response to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking when advocates and law enforcement work together to improve systems. We also know that there is more work to be done to improve response overall, and particularly in marginalized communities.

As we continue to work with law enforcement to improve the response to victims and communities, we have a need to ensure the privacy and safety of victims who interact with law enforcement. Police data released to the public has the potential to reveal victims’ identity and consequently put them at risk of further harm, harassment or damage to their reputation.

For more than a year, Safety Net has explored the issue of maintaining victim privacy and safety while supporting the overall intention behind the Police Data Initiative with the support of the Office on Violence Against Women (U.S. Department of Justice) and Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and in partnership with the Obama White House, the Police Foundation, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Sunlight Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and others.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2016-TA-AX-K064 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Technology-Facilitated Stalking: What You Need to Know

Tech Doesn't Cause Stalking.jpg

Through technology and our use of social media, we can quickly and easily connect with other people. However, typical activities such as tweeting, updating a Facebook status, or using a phone’s GPS to find local restaurants can all be misused by abusers to stalk, harass, surveil, and control victims.

What is Stalking?

Stalking is defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. According to the CDC, 7.5 million people are stalked in the United States each year.

  •  61% of female victims and 44 percent of male victims are stalked by current or former intimate partners.
  • 90% of stalking incidents are committed by someone that the victim knows.

Learn more about stalking from the Stalking Resource Center

Misusing Technology in Order to Stalk Victims

One common form of technology-facilitated stalking is spying and eavesdropping. This is a popular method among perpetrators because it is inexpensive and easily hidden.

  • Mobile devices include call records, texts, web surfing and physical location histories.
  • Many social media apps also track a user’s friends, conversations and location.

The goal of the technology abuse can be to track or control a victim, to isolate the victim from supportive friends and family, or to damage a victim’s credibility or work-life.

Gathering Evidence

When it comes to technology-facilitated abuse, preserving evidence is critical. Though our gut reaction may be to hit ‘delete,’ we need to consider documenting what’s happening on the device before removing it. Possible steps include:

  • Coordinating with law enforcement and prosecutors early on, if you choose to.
  •  Keeping a stalking incident log. This helps to paint a picture and can help to refresh a victim’s memory. Some items to keep in the incident log include: text messages, photos, videos, voice messages, screenshots of phones and laptops, and printed emails with the header expanded.

Safety Tips for Survivors of Technology-Facilitated Stalking or Abuse

Though abusers can misuse technology, it can also be used strategically by survivors to enhance or maintain safety.

Safe and private use of technology is possible

  • Learn more about technology safety through our Survivors’ Toolkit, including guides to privacy and safety with social media, mobile devices and more.
  • Download our Tech Safety App to your mobile device to access tech safety tips, resources, and information on the go

 

Read a longer version of this summary. This post is drawn from a webinar hosted in January by Jewish Women International (JWI) featuring Safety Net and the Stalking Resource Center.

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 2016-TA-AX-K069 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Recent Instagram Changes Aim to Create a Safer Platform

Early last Fall, Instagram made a commitment to users to make sure it’s a safe place. Recently they’ve taken new steps toward fulfilling that commitment by launching a number of additional safety tools. These include:

·         Instagram Together a new safety center that catalogues all of the safety tools available to Instagram users, and lists international resources to support peoples’ safety (And we’re thrilled to say that techsafety.org is listed among them!)

·         Two-factor authentication will now be available to all users, adding an extra layer of security that helps keep your account safe even if your password is stolen.

·         Sensitive Content Screens will now blur out images and videos that have been flagged by users (and verified by Instagram’s review team) as sensitive in nature. These are images and videos that don’t violate Instagram’s guidelines, but that some users may feel are offensive or disturbing. As we know, sometimes online harassment takes the form of people mis-flagging the photos of victims in an effort to prevent them from effectively engaging on social media. We spoke with Instagram to see how they work to make sure the Sensitive Content Screens won’t be misused in such a way, and were told that the only time the screens will go up is if the content doesn’t violate their community guidelines but contains graphic or violent content. Examples of this include images of animal abuse, the impact of war on local communities, etc. Only Instagram can place a screen over a photo, and the number of times a post is flagged will not impact their decision-making process – so if someone is trying to troll a victim by mis-flagging their photos, their efforts will be ineffective.

We’re pleased to see Instagram work to make their platform a safer place for survivors of harassment and abuse, and look forward to seeing what’s next in their efforts to fulfill their commitment to kindness!

NNEDV Resource Highlight: Staying Safe on Facebook

On April 5, 2017, Facebook announced that it would apply photo-matching software to help stop the spread of “revenge porn” – which is a pervasive crime that occurs across social media channels and the internet (however, we prefer the more accurate term “non-consensual sharing of intimate images”). We are proud to have helped advise Facebook in the development and rollout of these new tools to stop the spread of non-consensual sharing of intimate images on Facebook platforms. Read more about these new tools here.

In May 2017, Facebook also added another level of defense against improper content. 3000 new employees were hired to review content such as hate speech, child exploitation, and“revenge porn.” Facebook currently has nearly 2 billion users, which makes the process of reviewing and removing inappropriate content an enormous job. The company has expressed a hope that the added employees will help to more quickly remove information that is disallowed by Facebook policies. Read more about the new employees here.  More information about how to make a report of inappropriate content can be found here

Since 2009, Safety Net has worked with Facebook to help improve safety considerations and increase survivors’ ability to safely utilize the platform. We believe that survivors have the right to remain connected to their friends and loved ones and that everyone deserves to be safe at home, at work, on the street, and online.    

Learn more about staying safe on Facebook:

«  Safety & Privacy on Facebook: A Guide for Survivors of Abuse is available in English, Spanish (Latin America), French, Arabic, and more

«  Our quick Guide to Staying Safe on Facebook is currently available in English

«  Review additional tools and resources for survivors in our toolkit, Technology Safety & Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors

If you have additional questions about helping survivors stay safe on social media – or any other technology safety questions, please reach out to our Safety Net team: safetynet@nnedv.org.

Do I REALLY Need to Worry About My Password? (Spoiler Alert: Yes!)

red padlock with a heart etched on it

Passwords have become such a regular part of our daily lives that it’s easy to forget about the importance of making sure they’re secure. We generally only think about password security when we’ve gotten a notice that one of our accounts has been compromised, or when we’ve forgotten our current password and have to make a new one. Rather than seeing them as a main line of defense against prying eyes, it’s easy to get into the habit of just being annoyed that we need them in the first place. 

This month, we’re taking a fresh look at password security, and the particular ways that survivors of domestic violence can use password security to protect their privacy and increase their safety. Check out our new resource “Passwords: Simple Ways to Increase Your Security” to learn more!

Twitter Announces New Safety Features In Latest Effort To Protect Users

twitter logo

Most people who have spent time on Twitter have seen the harassment that can take place within the platform - users taking advantage of the ability to remain anonymous and using it to intimidate, threaten, dox, and otherwise abuse people in a very personal and targeted fashion. In an effort to combat the often rampant abuse on its platform, Twitter announced four new safety features this month. The changes come in large part from the guidance they’ve received from the Twitter Trust and Safety Council (of which NNEDV is a member) and feedback from victims of harassment and abuse on the platform.

  • In the past, even when someone was permanently banned from Twitter for their abusive behavior, it was relatively easy for them to create a new account and continue their harassment. Twitter is now taking steps to identify those people and stop them from being able to create new accounts.
  • The creation of a safe-search mode that will remove Tweets from your search results that contain harmful content, and Tweets that are created by accounts you have blocked or muted. You can turn safe-search mode off and on so that you can still find the abusive content if you want or need to (to monitor an abuser's behavior, collect evidence, or make a report to Twitter, for example).
  • Abusive, confrontational replies that are created by new accounts without many followers, and that are directed at a person who doesn’t follow the account, will be pushed to the bottom of conversations and housed in a section called “less relevant replies.” The replies will still be viewable by those who want to see them, but won’t interrupt productive, civil conversations.

If an account holder has blocked you, but is continuing to mention you in abusive or harassing Tweets, you will now be able to report those Tweets.

We’re pleased to see Twitter take these steps to make their platform a safer place for survivors of harassment and abuse, and we look forward to seeing continued advances in promoting civility and safety online.

For more information on how to increase your safety and privacy on Twitter, be sure to check out our guide to Safety & Privacy on Twitter for survivors of harassment and abuse. It provides tips and guidance for increasing privacy on the social network, and for how to respond to others who misuse the platform.