Written by: Grace Jordan, Solicitor
What is the best way to stay safe online post-separation?
It’s easy to get caught up with the bigger or more obvious concerns after separation, such as dividing the assets, organising time with the children and adapting to the new normal – but it is important not to overlook the little things.
In today’s day and age, people are connected in more ways than joint bank accounts and shared furniture. Today, people are intertwined digitally and online. Multiple issues arise from a shared online space that people are quick to forget – ownership, privacy and safety.
Platforms to Consider
It’s common practice nowadays for partners to know each other’s passwords, passcodes and even share online banking access. During separation, it can be easy to forget about these links with an ex, or even not think about it at all. One of the first steps you should take at separation is to think about what your ex may have access to, accounts you share and accounts you may need to start on your own. Common examples are:
Other social media platforms
Netflix / Stan
iTunes/App Store (Apple ID’s)
Other streaming sites
Online shopping accounts – such as Amazon, eBay, etc.
Find My Friends app
You also need to keep in mind whether any accounts are logged in on multiple devices. Generally, accounts and platforms provide the option to sign out of your account on all devices – this should be done as soon as possible.
After separation, or if you’re contemplating separation, we encourage you to sit down and make a list of all your digital platforms similar to those above. It may take some time, but it is better to sacrifice an hour of your Sunday (or lunch break) protecting your cyber self now, than have your ex-partner breach your privacy later.
What are the next steps to protect your digital self?
First step is to change all passwords. Use the list you made (as suggested above) and check off each account as you change the passwords. When we say change your passwords, it should be more than changing the final digit or adding one capital letter. It needs to be a new password your ex will not be able to guess.
For example, changing a passwords from Alphabet1 to Alphabet2 is not an effective new password. The standard rules of passwords apply – a new password should not relate to birthdays, children names or pet’s name, unless you make it so it’s difficult to guess. For example, if it is a dog’s name like Rex Smith, a new password R3xSm1tH- is a stronger option to limit the chances your ex will guess it.
The next step is to consider whether you share an account on any platform with your ex-partner, if so, you should definitely make a new account. Annoying? Yes. Necessary? YES.
If this shared account is an email, the process can be made easier by saving the Address Book saved in your old joint account to your computer before signing out for the last time.
If this shared account is Netflix or Spotify, it will be easier (and cheaper) to make a new account using your now secure, or new, email account. Having a solicitor write a letter to your ex about who keeps what subscription will potentially cost more than an annual subscription to any streaming service.
If you share an email account with your ex and it is linked to social media accounts, this must be changed as soon as possible! You should log into the relevant platform and change your primary email in settings to the new email. If this is not possible, it is easier and safer for you to delete the old account and make a new one.
Why is it important?
Privacy is very important, especially if you are in a situation of family violence or have commenced legal proceedings. If you do not want your ex to know where and what you are doing, you need to make sure your ex cannot read your emails, Facebook messages or find your location using Find My Friends or Snapchat locations.
If legal proceedings have started, or you have engaged a solicitor, if your ex has access to your emails, they will be able to read confidential letters sent from your solicitor which may impede the negotiations and settlement process.