Covering your tracks

If you are concerned an abuser may discover what websites or information you’ve been reading, or email communication you have been having, there are some precautions you can take to cover your tracks. However, the safest way to find online information or to communicate with help services may be to use a safer computer or device, like a computer at the library or on campus, or by using a friend’s computer or device that has login protection with strong passwords.

The following tips may help you cover your tracks when using the Internet with several popular web browsing applications.

How browsers can reveal your online behaviour

Web browsers like Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox are designed to leave traces behind that indicate where you’ve been and what you’ve been looking at on the Internet. It’s hard to absolutely guarantee that your activity on the Internet can’t be traced at all, but here are some simple things you can do to reduce the chances that someone looking through your computer will find out what you’ve been reading.

Many browsers now have the option of private or “incognito” browsing. If you access this option, no information from your current browsing session will be saved. Please note that you need to choose this option each time you start a new browsing session. If your browser does not have private browsing options, the steps below can help you cover your tracks.

Note that these instructions can change with software updates.

If you use Google Chrome:

  • Use the Preferences menu to access your History, then choose Clear browsing data and select the Beginning of time option

If you use Internet Explorer:

  • Open the Settings menu, select Internet Options.
  • Select the General tab at the top.
  • In the section called Browsing History, click on Delete, or choose to Delete on Exit

If you use Firefox:

  • Open Settings, then choose Privacy.
  • Select Clear your recent history, and Remove individual cookies

If you use Safari:

  • Under the History menu item, choose Clear History. Select All history from the menu and then click Clear History

Adapted from Cover your Tracks, Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape.

Emergency info

If you are on campus and you — or anyone else — is at immediate risk of harm:

Contact 911 and OCAD U Safety & Security
at 416-977-6000, Ext. 511
or pick up any red phone to be immediately connected

Student Wellness Centre
416-977-6000, Ext. 260
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Are you safe?

If the perpetrator is at risk of harming you or others, contact 911 immediately and get to somewhere safe.

If you do not feel safe in your home, arrange to stay with friends or contact emergency housing services.

If you are having suicidal thoughts and/or think you may harm yourself or someone else, please go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

If you are having trouble discerning how you feel or what you need, contact OCAD U’s Student Wellness Centre, or any of the helplines or mental health services available in the community.

Important tip!

When you clear all your browser history, you erase not only the information on where you’ve been, but any other information that had been previously stored there. So, if your abuser checks and sees that the history has been completely emptied, they will know that you know how to do this. They may also guess that you’re trying to hide something.

Downloads such as PDFs or other files and documents

If you have downloaded any PDFs, files or documents, they may be searchable on your computer or device. If you are concerned an abuser is monitoring your behaviour, you may want to avoid downloading such files. Renaming files can assist in obscuring their presence, but some search tools can read the text contents of files and documents that you may not want an abuser to find.

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