Identify your security risks
First of all, you need to know what the risks you’re facing are in order to take the necessary steps to protect yourself. The sooner you diagnose areas of vulnerability, the quicker you can find solutions. Even though you realise that a post you made on social media unknowingly divulged your location, you can now act.
You should take as much care to protect your online presence as you do with your physical one. Securing our online presence is crucial to health and happiness; if someone intrudes upon our online space, it is easy to feel violated. Therefore, online safety habits need to be developed and practiced to become second nature, like locking your front door or storing your valuables somewhere safe.
“But online, what is our “door” and what are our “valuables”?”
This part will help you figure that out.
Assess the strength of your security
Who is your stalker/abuser?
Do you know the abuser or is it an unknown person or group?
- How are you and the abuser or abusers connected? Do you know them personally?
- How financially resourceful are they?
- How politically or socially influential are they?
- How technologically competent are they?
- What is their relationship to you?
- What if you’re unsure of who they are?
Does the environment you live in increase the threat?
What are the laws and policies that affect you?
This depends on where you live. For example, in the UK, thanks to the Human Rights Act, legal frameworks are in place to prevent others from using your personal data “in a way that causes damage or distress.” On the other hand, Pakistani privacy laws have done little to protect digital rights, like how data is collected, stored, and used. See an overview of Data Protection Laws of the world. It is also advisable to check if there are any laws against stalking and how well they are enforced. If you don’t know, try talking to people you trust to get information from them. If it is difficult to obtain information about safety and privacy laws, it is likely that they are either non-existent or weakly enforced, so your environment increases the threat.
What are the cultural norms of your/your abuser’s community and family?
Are they likely to favour your abuser and make your story sound unbelievable or paranoid? If so, the risk you’re under is higher.
How easy is it to bribe someone where you live?
Have you or any of your family and friends ever bribed anyone or witnessed a bribe? It doesn’t have to be a big thing - do you know of anyone getting out of a speeding ticket, or getting their documents faster by giving a bribe? If there is corruption in the system where you live, it puts you at additional risk, especially if your abuser is wealthy or influential. Refer to http://cpi.transparency.org for an overview of perceptions of corruption in your country.