How to stay safe online

Explains how to keep yourself safe and look after your wellbeing when you use the internet for information or support for your mental health. It covers protecting your privacy, how to take relationships offline safely and how to address online bullying and abuse.

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How can I protect my privacy?

As we share more and more of our lives online, it’s important to make sure we protect our privacy and prevent people from accessing private information about ourselves. You can:

What is private information?

Private information is anything you might not want other people to see. That might include:

  • Personal details like where you live, work or study.
  • Financial details, like your bank account or credit card details.
  • Personal photos, including pictures of your friends, family, or sexually explicit photos.
  • Sensitive information, for example about your health, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
  • Confidential information, for example information from your workplace.
  • Your personal opinion, which could be anything from political comments to jokes or complaints.

Check your privacy settings

Make sure you are aware of how private a site or community is. Just because a site requires you to log in, this doesn't necessarily mean that your profile is entirely private – some parts might still be shown publicly. You can:

  • Read the website’s privacy policy to know how your information will and won't be used.
  • Control the level of privacy you have on some sites, so you can decide who can see what you post.

My [Facebook] profile is set to friends only. I don't accept friend requests from strangers on Facebook, only people who I've been talking to on support groups for a long time.

Use secure passwords

It's important to have a secure password whatever kind of site you're using. It's a good idea to:

  • change your password regularly
  • always log out when you're away from your computer, tablet or phone
  • change your password immediately if you think someone has accessed your account without your permission

Websites like Get Safe Online and Know the Net can tell you more about how to choose a secure password.

Protect your personal details

What you share online can affect both your privacy and the privacy of others, so it’s important to think carefully about what you post.

  • Don't post personal details anywhere public, for example on Facebook or Twitter. (This includes details such as your phone number, address or bank details.)
  • Be careful when sending someone your bank details, using online banking or online shopping. If you think someone has used information you have shared to do things like open bank accounts or obtain documents you should report it as soon as you can to Action Fraud.

[I make] sure I never divulge anything I don't want to. I think its important to remember that we never know who is at the other end of a keyboard... I always have a made up username, give only non-identifiable info, like interests, and no names or pics.

Think about who will see your post

Sharing things like jokey photos or personal opinions can seem harmless at the time, but sometimes we end up regretting it in the future. You might want to think about:

  • Would you want your friends, family, or employer seeing it? Very few sites are 100% private, and information is often shared online.
  • Can you see yourself regretting it in future? Will you still want people to see it in 5, 10 or 20 years' time? It’s very difficult to remove something from the internet permanently.

I have a list of things not to do when I'm really low: don't drink, don't make any life changing decisions and never ever post how you feel online, because once it's out you can't take it back.

Be extra careful with sexually explicit content

If you send someone a sexually explicit image, it's possible that they could use it to try to harm you in the future, such as by sharing it with someone else, or threatening to post it publicly. Your photo or video could also be accidentally shared beyond you and the person you sent it to. Although this does not happen often, it is something to keep in mind before you share sexually explicit content with anyone – even privately.

Remember:

  • Even if the other person is someone you feel you know and trust, relationships can change.
  • No one has the right to share your personal information without your consent, including images.
  • Even if you consented to having the picture taken, or took it yourself, if you have not consented to it being shared you can report it to the police.

The Get Safe Online website provides more information on how you can manage this sort of situation.

Don't break the law

Sharing content or information you don't own, or that is either confidential or untrue, can have serious consequences in some circumstances.

You must not:

  • upload any content you don’t own the copyright for, such as films, music or books. This this is illegal unless you have permission from the copyright holder.
  • publicly post other people's personal information – including pictures – without their permission. This could be upsetting for them, and in some circumstances might be a criminal offence.
  • publicly post false or confidential information about organisations. In serious cases this might result in you being sued for libel (damaging an organisation's reputation in print), or disciplined for misconduct if you are an employee of the organisation – you could lose your job.

 


This information was published in June 2015. We will revise it in 2018.


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