Do-It-Yourself Online Safety Guide for Women — why we did it & top tips for staying safe

Do you know how much information you share online? Who has access to it? How you can make your online presence safer so potential abusers don’t get their hands on your information?

At Chayn, we recently released a Do-It-Yourself Online Safety Guide. The purpose of the guide is to help people, especially women, be more aware of the safety risks we take online. The guide helps us make a diagnosis of our security strengths and weaknesses and take action to keep safe.

Taking Online Safety into Our Own Hands

In the digital age, abuse and misogyny offline translate into online harassment, hate speech, or even revenge porn. This puts vulnerable people even more at risk, especially female survivors of violence. The danger is amplified even more so for people living in oppressive contexts; there the law of the land does not offer protection to people whose social behaviour differs from the norm.

Given the current international surveillance system, it’s clearly a necessity to protect our data from being used against us.

A Crowdsourced Guide

Aware of our limitations in grasping the complex details of this issue, we crowdsourced the guide with female survivors. That way, we could design it with them rather than arbitrarily deciding what the key aspects were to include within it. What we heard was that the two main characteristics of the Guide needed:

1) to be accessible from any device and everywhere, and

2) to contain useful and practical advice that could be implemented right away.

In order to meet these objectives, Chayn’s DIY Online Privacy Guide is licensed under the Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license. That license makes it easy for individuals or organizations alike to share and distribute the guide.

It has been translated into eight languages (English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu, Urdu, and Russian). So wherever you live around the world, we hope you can use it! It’s built on top of a github repository, so it’s really easy for any organization to create their own version of it.

This guide will always be a work in progress because of the ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity. So please help us improve it by dropping us a line if you see bugs or outdated information. We want to build it together with you!

Get Started with These 4 Tips

1. Don’t Give Out Your Passwords

As obvious as it may seem, you should not share a password with your loved ones and friends, or reuse the same password across accounts. But how can you do it with so many accounts, right? Just download a password manager to create and remember strong passwords for you!

2. Be Vigilant: Don’t Let Websites Track You

While surfing the web, you are unknowingly sharing information. Websites use trackers and cookies to learn where you are located, what other websites you visited, what products you bought, and what keyword searches you made. Scary? Yes, definitely. Avoidable? Absolutely! You can change that by using browser extensions to block tracking cookies.

3. Clean Up Your Personal Information

Have you ever given your phone to a friend or a relative to send a message or make a call? You might not have thought about it then, but you gave them direct access to your browser history and chat history from your messaging apps.

To avoid other people putting their nose into your private life, regularly erase your call and message histories. If there are conversations you would like to keep, just archive and encrypt them. You will keep them forever for your eyes only!

4. Use Social Media Carefully

Make sure you know what your contacts can see when you post your status or some pictures or indicate your location. Remember that when people tag you, this information is shared with their contacts as well as yours. Now it’s time to check out your privacy settings and adjust them according to your needs!

(Originally published in TechSoup on March 30th 2017)