Helping Someone Secure Their Online Data
The more steps a person can take to secure their online data prior to an attack the better protected they will be. This is because online attackers will often use a person’s personal data to harass and intimidate them. Removing data in advance will limit the amount of information available to attackers. Helping others secure their data may not be easy and it is important that you ensure your own safety before helping others.
Take time to consider your own safety
Before helping someone with their own online safety it is important to make sure that you are also secure. Take steps to remove your own online data and secure your accounts. PEN America has more details on this in their guide for allies and bystanders.
Suggest they map their online profile
Suggest to the person that they map out their online profile by searching for their name on all search engines and noting down information that makes them vulnerable. This may include location details, such as their address, or content on their social media accounts, such as personal photos, that can reveal a lot of personal data.
The person should remove unwanted data from their own sites or social media. If content is held on the sites of family or friends then the person will need to speak to them to see if it can be removed. Data held on third-party platforms, such as public databases, can be more difficult to remove since those entities may be required by law to make the data public. Be aware that it can take time to take down content from the internet so it’s important to start the process promptly.
Secure their accounts
Online attackers may try to access both work and personal accounts. Encourage the person you’re helping to better protect their personal accounts. Visit our page on secure accounts for more information.
For People in the USA
People living in the USA are very likely to have a lot of personal data about them available online in public databases. This may include their address, personal phone number and the names of relatives. This data is made easily searchable by people finder sites, which abusers can use to locate, contact, and doxx journalists.
To reduce the risk of journalists’ personal information being made public and used to harass and intimidate them, it is a good idea to sign up for a service that can remove this data. Common services include DeleteMe or Privacy Duck. Be aware that it can take time to remove data from the internet so these services are best used in advance of an attack.
You and others can learn more about securing online data with the following resources.
The Committee to Protect Journalists
A comprehensive review of how to take down content online. Available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
The New York Times
A detailed step-by-step guide on how to find and remove your data from the internet by the NYT’s Open team.