Safety and Privacy When Using Electronic Devices for Legal Matters

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Other People Can See Your Internet Activity and Search History

Your Internet searches and the web pages you visit are saved in the history of the device you are using. This means that anyone who uses the device after you can look at your history and see what you have viewed. 

An abuser or someone tracking your online activity does not need physical access to your devices to watch what you are doing online. Someone who wants to monitor your activity can install spyware or surveillance software, and they do not need physical access to your devices to do this. An abuser may be able to install such software through the Internet. This can include getting access to your usernames and passwords.

How to Protect Your Privacy When Using the Internet

If you think someone might be checking your devices to see what you are doing on the Internet, you can use a different device that the person does not have physical or electronic access to. For example, you could use the computer at a library or Self-Help Center or the smartphone of a friend or family member.

If you think that someone might have put spyware or surveillance software on one of your devices, the National Network to End Domestic Violence has information about how to know if these things might be on your devices and steps you can take to remove it. To learn more, read their articles Spyware and Stalkerware: Phone Surveillance and Safety for Survivors and Spyware and Stalkerware: Computer Surveillance & Safety for Survivors.

Safety Considerations for Filing Papers at Court

If you need to file documents in a court case or start a new one, there are a few different ways the court may ask you to do this. Traditionally, court papers are filed either in person with the court clerk, by mail, or by fax. Some courts in Michigan now allow or in some cases require electronic filing (e-filing) through MiFILE. Other courts also allow or require filing by e-mail.

If you need to file paper copies of documents with a court, keep them in a safe space or file them as soon as you finish them to keep the information private. If you keep legal documents out in the open, someone could see them and learn information about you or your court case.

It is usually a good idea to keep a copy of your court documents for your records. If you are worried about someone in your home seeing them, make a plan to store your documents with a friend or family member you trust.

Safety Considerations for E-filing

Your court may require you to e-file papers in your court case. This means you will need to use a computer or device to file and access documents related to your court case. In some limited circumstances, including cases where it is not safe for you to e-file, you can ask for an exemption from e-filing. To learn more about this process, read What is E-filing?

Some courts do not require e-filing but have it available, and you may want to e-file. In many ways, e-filing is more convenient than paper filing. However, if you are a survivor of domestic violence or stalking, you may have concerns about your abuser tracking your online activity, including e-filing.

You may also be concerned about your abuser being able to track your e-filing submissions. It is important to note that your abuser cannot delete or change any electronic documents that you have filed with the court or been notified of by the court. These documents are maintained by the e-filing system for up to one year. 

The best way to keep access to your e-filing account safe and private is the same as keeping your e-mail account safe and private. Read on to learn more.

E-mail Safety 

When you register for MiFILE, you must create a MiFILE account and provide an e-mail address and other information. If you are a survivor of domestic violence or stalking, do not use an e-mail address for e-filing that you share with the abuser or one that they might have access to. The e-mail address you use to register for MiFILE will be visible to all the other parties in the case. If your case is considered public (most cases are), anyone who searches for your case in MiFILE will also be able to see your e-mail address.

If you do not have a private e-mail account or secure password for your e-mail account, or if you do not want other people to have your e-mail address, you may want to create a new e-mail address to use for e-filing. If you do this, make sure you still check it often. You can get a new, free e-mail address on many websites, including Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo.

You can protect your e-mail security by doing the following:

  • Use a two-step verification process, which requires a verification code to be sent to your phone or other device every time you log into your e-mail account.
  • Always log out of your e-mail account after you use it.
  • Do not use the same password for different accounts.
  • Change your password regularly.
  • Use a strong password (one that contains numbers, symbols, capital letters, etc.). Do not use meaningful words, names, or dates that someone else is likely to know.
  • If you choose to get MiFILE notifications via e-mail, make sure you can and do check your e-mail regularly. 

To learn more tech safety tips, visit the Tech Safety Website created by the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

E-filing Notifications

E-filing involves receiving important electronic notifications about your court case. You can get these by e-mail or text. Choose what notification method is best for you and which method your abuser will least likely be able to access. If you choose text, make sure that you will have continuous access to your cell phone and cell service. If your cell service is turned off, even temporarily, you may miss important court notifications.

Asking for an E-filing Exemption

If e-filing will be unsafe for you, you can ask for an exemption. Getting an exemption from e-filing means getting permission from the court to file paper documents during a court case. One reason a judge will consider for granting an exemption is if e-filing would be unsafe for you because of domestic violence. To learn more about asking for an exemption, read What is E-filing?

Leave this site Safely

You can quickly leave this website by clicking the “X” in the top right or by pressing the Escape key twice. If you’re worried someone may be watching what you do online, be sure to regularly clear your browser history.