If you are going through a malicious divorce and your spouse is willing to do anything to get what he or she wants, you'll need to work especially hard to protect yourself. This even goes for social media. Lawyers in Texas are allowed to run computer searches during divorce proceedings, and most anything they find is admissible in court. Because of this, you should consider reducing your digital footprint as much as possible.
Your digital footprint is the trail of data you leave behind when you use the internet. It is not only your current emails and texts, but also every account you've created, every image you've posted, and every location you've tagged. Together, this information can create an image of your interests, actions, beliefs, and routines, all information that can be used against you in court. However, there are some things you can do to keep your information private.
- Delete Old Accounts – As email has evolved over the years, you may have decided to open new ones, letting old ones remain unused. However, old accounts can still contain sensitive information in messages and even in images. If you aren't checking email accounts regularly, you wouldn't notice any suspicious activity taking place that could show your account has been breached, so it's a good idea to delete all email accounts you aren't using.
- Check your Privacy Settings – Privacy and security settings change often, especially on such social media sites as Facebook and Instagram. You should check the Privacy section of all of your accounts to be sure your choices are still in place. Change your password often, choosing words not easily relatable to you. Also, consider changing your recovery or emergency password, too. When you established your account, you may have used those once unique choices, such as your birthday, your mother's maiden name, or your first pet's name, all of which have become so common today that it would take only a little effort to find them. Change them, too.
- Unsubscribe from mailing lists – Sometimes you sign on to mailing lists for retail businesses or restaurants in order to receive discounts, then pass over the advertisements that clutter your email. However, these accounts increase the number of 3rd parties with access to your personal information. This could also provide your spouse's lawyer with more avenues of finding your information online.
- Delete unused shopping accounts – You may have opened online accounts with certain businesses simply to order one or two specific items, then stopped using them. These sites contain financial information. They may also provide information to your spouse's lawyer about how you are spending your money.
There are things you can do proactively, too.
- Limit your profile visibility on social media – Use the settings that prevent your profile from being publicly searched.
- Search for yourself – It may feel strange to “Google” yourself, but it will at least give you a little idea of what your name is connected to that you know nothing about. Maybe you can fix something before it turns up in court.
- Set up alerts – Set up an alert that will notify you whenever your name appears online. You can add a keyword to your name if it is identical to another one that also turns up regularly.
- Use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN – A VPN encrypts all data that you send and receive over the internet. It will also mask your true IP address and make it impossible to find your physical location. This is especially helpful when you're using unsecure public Wi-Fi networks at local businesses.
There are also common-sense measures you can take, such as be careful who you add to your “Friends” lists on such sites as Facebook and Instagram, share information sparingly, be careful who and what you respond to, and be very careful when you receive suspicious emails. There are more in depth steps you can take to protect your personal information or to erase altogether, but those steps may take months, and that's time you may not have during a divorce procedure. However, with hackers becoming more creative, taking that extra time to protect your personal information may be worth the effort.