A Note on Language
In this toolkit, we will sometimes use the word woman/women and feminine pronouns for simplicity and to recognize the significant impact technology-facilitated violence has on women and girls. We recognize that TFGBV also impacts trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people. We hope that all people impacted by TFGBV will find these documents useful.
More people are watching videos on YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and other platforms than ever before. While video content on these platforms can open doors to new information and resources, survivors of violence should be aware of the risks that come with watching videos in these spaces.
Here are some considerations when watching, interacting with, or sharing videos.
1. Delete Browsing History
Web browsers on computers and mobile devices often store and save information about the sites you’ve visited and the videos you have watched. If you think your computer, tablet, or phone is being monitored, consider deleting your browsing history as it can reveal the sites you visit and may identify what you have viewed. Periodically delete history, cookies, temporary internet files, saved forms, and passwords from your web browser if safe to do so.
2. Use Private Browsing, When Safe
When searching for videos, or watching videos that you want to keep private, you may want to consider using an Incognito/In-Private Browser. Private browser windows keep history and cookies from being stored once the window is closed. It also means that any accounts you are logged in to in the regular browser window will not be logged in to in the private window.
Using these private browsing options can limit what data is tracked and stored. It is important to note that the websites you visit may still be visible if you don’t close the window once you are done viewing. View our Internet Browsing Privacy Tips to learn more. Use our Online Privacy and Safety Tips for more information on how to maintain safety and privacy in online spaces.
You may also consider using browsers and search engines that are built with privacy in mind. Privacy-forward browsers that do not track your activities and work to keep third parties like advertisers from tracking your activities include Firefox, Epic, Tor, and Brave. Privacy-forward search engines include Startpage, DuckDuck, and Swisscows. Be mindful that you may have to install these browsers on your device.
3. Log Out of Accounts
Some video-focused social media platforms (e.g. YouTube) give you the option of creating an account. When you create an account, these sites often store specific data about what you have viewed and what you have searched for. They often will make suggestions about future videos you may want to watch based on that history. If you want to keep that information out of your account so that others can’t access it, or so someone else who uses your account doesn’t get video suggestions that may reveal private information about you, view videos without logging in to the account. Likewise, these accounts, such as YouTube or TikTok, may be linked to other accounts on your phone such as your Google or iTunes account. These accounts may share or back-up information from the video platforms that you do not want to be shared or stored.
4. Beware of the Comments
Often, video-sharing services such as TikTok, YouTube, or Vimeo allow users to post comments under videos. If you choose to post a comment on a video, viewers may view or access your username and profile. If you have concerns about this, be mindful of what videos you comment on. While many times comments can be empowering, some use comments to troll, attack, and harass users. Take caution when posting comments and learn about the site's policies for reporting harassment.
5. Consider Using a Safer Device
If you think that someone is monitoring your computer, tablet, or mobile device, try using a different device or using a different browser that the person hasn’t had physical or remote access to in the past, and doesn’t have access to now (like a computer at a library or a friend’s phone). This can hopefully give an option for video viewing that cannot be monitored by this person.
6. Check Privacy and Account Settings
Every platform has privacy and account settings that give users the ability to lock down their accounts to viewers, limit the types of videos that are shown, and increase password or account security. Some platforms offer many different options for securing and ensuring privacy settings are engaged, while others offer limited ability to make changes. Check your privacy settings under your account information to determine which privacy settings are best for you. When using YouTube, Vimeo, or any other video-sharing site, ensure that your settings are secured to your desired level, and check these settings frequently. If you don’t know how to find these settings, use a search engine to search for account, privacy, or security settings on your desired platform.
7. Trust Your Instincts.
Abusers, stalkers, and perpetrators are often very determined to maintain control over their victims, and technology is one of many tools they use to do this. If it seems like the person knows too much about you, they could be getting that information from a variety of sources such as monitoring your devices, accessing your online accounts, tracking your location, or gathering information about you online.
Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV) is part of a continuum of violence that can be both online and in-person. If you or someone you know is experiencing TFGBV, you are not alone. You can use sheltersafe.ca to find a shelter/transition house near you to discuss options and create a safety plan. You don’t need to stay in a shelter to access free, confidential services and support.
Adapted for Canada with permission from NNEDV’s Safety Net project, based on their resource Tips for Using Video Sharing and Hosting Sites.