WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Safety Planning

Safety While Using the Internet

March 13, 2019

Can the abuser see what websites I have visited? Is there spyware on my computer?

There are a number of different ways that the abuser can tell what websites you have visited:

  • Your computer automatically saves a list of pages that you have visited in your Internet history and cache files (data that is temporarily stored on your computer such as websites, graphics etc.).
  • Your computer may save copies of some of the websites you have visited in something called a temp file.
  • Some websites contain “cookies,” files that automatically save onto your computer that show which websites you’ve visited, and any information you may have entered onto the site, such as your name, address etc. You can prevent cookies from saving onto your computer by changing the privacy settings on your Internet browser, which are often located in the “Tools” or “Options” menu.
  • If your computer has an AutoComplete function and it’s turned on, your computer may remember things you have typed into your web browser.
  • The abuser may have installed spyware on your computer, which may keep track of where you have been on the Internet and who you have sent email to. To read more information about spyware, such as how to detect it, and what to do about it, you can read Spyware and Stalkwerware: Computer Surveillance & Safety for Survivors which was written by the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Safety Net Project. There are things you can do to hide your Internet activity, such as deleting your Internet history, but be aware that if the abuser has access to your computer, s/he may be able to check and see that you’ve done so. It is impossible to completely hide your tracks – especially if the abuser knows a lot about computers, since there are other ways Internet activity can be monitored. The safest way to find information on the Internet is at a computer that the abuser cannot access. Try a domestic violence organization in your area, a local library, a community center, a friend’s house, or another computer that you know is not monitored.

If you are concerned for your safety, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-779-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224.