Safety & Technology
Mobile phones and other devices (tablet/iPad)
If you make a call that you do not wish to be traced, you can delete the call history from the call log on your mobile phone, for example, if you phone a domestic violence support service for help.
If you use a landline, dial another number immediately afterwards so that your call history can't be tracked.
Mobile phone or mobile device tracking and monitoring applications
Most modern mobile phones and mobile devices, including tablets, can be used to track the owner’s location via the maps application or via easily installed tracking and spyware applications available on the market. These applications can be installed on a mobile phone or device without the owner’s knowledge or consent and generally use the mobile device’s global positioning system (GPS) or wi-fi data to relay tracking information to another person.
Some applications also remotely monitor additional private information such as calls, texts, emails, websites visited and photos taken from the mobile device.
Removing or exchanging a SIM card is not enough to prevent tracking as the application may remain on the phone. Having the mobile device turned off will avoid data being sent to another person, but this is not a practical solution and the risk returns if the device is switched back on.
If in any doubt about your mobile phone or tablet security, the safest way to remove such an application is to reset your mobile device from within the ‘Settings’ menu (i.e. factory data reset). It is important to backup or write down your contacts first as these will be deleted. Other items such as photos and music which are saved on the internal memory will also be deleted. Items stored on an external (removable) SD card should not be affected by a data reset.
If you feel that the security of your mobile device could be compromised, the following actions may help:
1. Turn off the GPS functionality (location services) on your phone/device in the ‘Settings’ menu to stop location tracking.
2. A factory data reset will restore the device to its original state. It will delete the internal storage, erase all personal data and settings and will remove all installed applications including any tracking or spyware apps. This option can be accessed through the ‘Settings’ menu for most phones/devices (Android, Windows, Blackberry, iPhone). Apple products can also be restored to the original settings through the iTunes software.
A factory data reset will also remove contacts and messages. Therefore, you may want to save your contacts to the SIM card, back up contacts to an SD Card or computer or write important contacts down. For most mobile phones, applications are available to back up contacts and SMS if required. Photos and music can also be backed up to an SD card or computer before resetting the device.
3. Check the applications list in your phone/device for any applications that look suspicious and that you did not install yourself. They are likely to appear in the applications list under an unassuming name such as ‘radio’ app. Uninstall any apps that you did not install.
4. Buy an alternative second-hand or inexpensive mobile phone to use until you feel confident that your other phone is not relaying your location and private information.
5. Turn off your phone and only use it in an emergency.
If you experience issues in resetting your mobile phone or mobile device or erasing the storage, content and settings, a mobile phone store should be able to provide assistance.
Internet searches and visits to websites can be easily traced in a computer's cache and browsing history. Spyware and computer monitoring software can also be easily installed to monitor a person’s computer use.
For your own safety, learn how to delete your internet search history in the computer's cache or, better still, use a public computer at a library or an internet café.
Find out more information about online security measures including how to delete the browser history.
If you suspect anyone has access to your email account, consider setting up an alternative email account on a safer computer. Free web-based accounts such as Gmail, hotmail and yahoo are easy to set up and can be accessed from any computer. Use a non-identifying user name, for example firstname.lastname@example.org
Use a safe computer to access your accounts. Consider changing passwords for any password-protected accounts that you regularly use, such as online banking, email, Facebook, PayPal, Google, eBay etc. Some accounts will hold personal information such as your address details, that you may not want shared.
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Social networking sites such as Facebook provide an easy way for a stalker or a perpetrator to find, track and follow a person. If using Facebook, your privacy settings and the automatic location sharing settings may be putting you at risk. If in doubt, avoid using these sites.