Technology and Violence Against Women Series – Posting Content Online

In this blog series, we are examining the impact of technology on violence against women crimes, as identified by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) Safety Net Project. Tomorrow, the IACP Violence Against Women team will focus on Spyware and Safety. Our most recent post focused on Email and Online Evidence Collecting, and today’s post will highlight posting content online.

The Internet is full of opportunities for us to share information about ourselves, whether it’s a blog entry, updating our Facebook status or Twitter account, creating event pages or gift registries, or posting videos on sites like YouTube. We post information to share our lives with our friends and family, but this information also becomes viewable by millions of other people as well. Individuals with high privacy risk, such as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; those in high-profile professions, such as law enforcement, judges, or celebrities; or those who are concerned with their privacy may want to be careful about what they share online. Below are questions to consider.

Who Will See This Information? Sometimes we don’t realize how far and wide our information is shared even when we think it is limited to just a few family and friends. Security breaches and inadvertent sharing may mean that the public could see what you share. Once it’s public, it can be indexed and searchable through search engines (such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing).

What Are You Sharing? The kind of information you share may reveal a lot more than you think. For example, landmarks in a picture or even posting a review about a great restaurant can indicate where you are or have been. Also, if you are sharing information about others, ask for permission because you may reveal something that they do not want others to know.

What Is the Site’s Privacy Policy? Do you know what the owners of the website do with the information you give them? Even if the information you share isn’t posted online, it may be shared with advertisers or third‐parties. Many sites have privacy policies that spell out what they do with the information you give them.

Is the Information You Share Illegal or Against the Website’s Policies? If you want to share information online, make sure you comply with laws (such as copyright and fair use) and with site policies. Many sites don’t allow violent or discriminatory content; some sites will remove “banned” content or even close the account that posted it. Posting false, harassing, or harmful content can even result in civil or criminal legal action. If you aren’t sure, find out about the relevant laws and policies first before you post.

How Much Control Do You Have Over The Information That You Share? Some people believe that the content they post belongs to them and they can control how it’s shared. However, once it’s out there, others can share it, talk about it, and even change it. If it is content that you originally posted, you could take down the original post. However, if it’s posted or shared on another site, it will be more difficult to remove it.

What can you do to increase your privacy? Below are just a few of the steps you can take to increase your privacy online.

  • Be thoughtful about what you share online.
  • Get permission before you post about other people.
  • When creating accounts read the instructions carefully. Oftentimes this is when you can opt out of the site owners accessing, collecting, or sharing your information.
  • Browse the internet more safely by running antivirus and antispyware software on your computer.

For more information about posting content online, click here. You can also contact the NNEDV’s Safety Net Project by clicking here. Be sure to visit their Tech Safety blog for additional information on technology safety.

If you have questions about the IACP’s Violence Against Women efforts, please contact Michael Rizzo, IACP Project Manager, at rizzo@theiacp.org, or visit the IACP’s National Law Enforcement Leadership Initiative on Violence Against Women webpage.

For information on law enforcement social media efforts, policy help, and resources check out the IACP Center for Social Media.

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