When you are going through a divorce, one of the things you will need to consider is how to protect your privacy. It is not unusual for spouses to share their personal data during the marriage and have access to each other’s accounts and devices. You may have shared your login credentials, passwords, answers to security questions or security settings with your spouse or stored them in your devices.
Even if your divorce is amicable, taking proactive steps to protect your online data is vital to keep your privacy and set boundaries. The sooner you regain control over your privacy, the better.
In high-conflict divorces there have been cases of identity theft and cyberattacks by one spouse as an act of revenge.
In this article, Julia Moreno provides some practical tips on how to enhance your data security and protect your privacy.
It is recommended that you change the passwords for all your email accounts and that you change the PINs/unlock codes for your mobile phone and other devices (laptop, tablet, iPad). You may also want to consider having additional protection features such as face recognition, fingerprint scanning and dual-factor authentication. It is better to stop using any shared electronic devices such as a computer, laptop or tablet.
If you have apps for your mobile phone, laptop, tablet or your car that allow certain people to track your location, consider disabling them or changing the security settings.
A virtual private network (VPN) can be used to conceal not only your location but also your IP address.
Shared services and storage
You should also consider what to do about any services you are sharing such as:
- Online shopping account/s: Amazon, eBay, etc.
- App store account/s: Apple/iTunes, Google, etc.
- Cloud services: iCloud, Dropbox, etc.
- Streaming services: music (Spotify, SoundCloud, etc.), movie (Netflix, Prime, etc.), games (PlayStation Now, Nvidia GeForce Now, etc.)
- Photo storage: Google photos, Flickr, etc.
- Online clothing stores
Once you have made a decision, review and change your passwords and security settings. For certain services, it may be advisable to back up all the shared files and then open up a new account.
This will avoid your spouse keeping an eye on what you have been up to and building up bills through your accounts.
If you cannot remember which services and stores you are subscribed to, you can check your bank statements which should show payments made. For apps, you can check on your mobile phone.
In addition, you need to bear in mind whether your accounts are synced with your spouse or your children (e.g. family sharing) and stop any connectivity between devices.
Whilst browsing on the internet, review the security and privacy settings of your browser to make your use of the internet more anonymous. The Chrome browser has Incognito Mode. Internet Explorer includes InPrivate Browsing. Firefox can use Private Window, and Safari allows you to switch on private browsing.
Alternatively, a VPN can also ensure that your internet surfing is encrypted so that you feel safer online.
Change your passwords for all your social media accounts so that your spouse cannot access your accounts and post as you.
If you do not want your spouse to view your posts, the easiest solution is not to post at all. At the very least, do not post anything about the divorce, what you are doing, or where you have been whilst your divorce is ongoing.
If you do want to post, unfriend your spouse and anyone who might help them to view your profile and posts. Then, change all your account privacy settings so only friends can view your content.
In addition, disable all location tracking services. Some social media accounts have options to let friends access your current location. If you are concerned about your spouse finding out about your location, it is advisable to turn the trackers off and instead, tell a trusted friend or family member where you are.
It is recommended that you change the login information, passwords, PINs, security settings and security questions of:
- individual bank account/s
- credit card account/s
- PayPal or any other money transfer/cash-sharing app/s
- pension account/s
- financial planning product/s
Be mindful that you cannot change joint account(s) login information. At the right time, you will need to agree on the closure or transfer of those accounts to one of you and how to split the funds. The same applies to credit cards where one of you is the secondary cardholder or authorised user.
Remember, the financial status quo that was enjoyed during the marriage should remain until a financial settlement is agreed upon. There should not be any financial control such as stopping payments or over-spending. However, you are entitled to protect the money and ensure that it is not misspent.
Do not try to hide your assets, as doing this would be detrimental to your case if your divorce matter is still ongoing. Not only will you lose credibility, but you will have compromised any agreements or settlements already made.
If you do not have your own bank account, now it is a good time to be opening an account in your name only, especially if you are in the planning stage and have not communicated your decision to divorce. You may not want your spouse to be aware that you are seeking legal or financial advice. However, you may have to provide bank statements for such accounts during the legal process. In any event, you are going to need a bank account in your name post-divorce.
It is vital that you protect and regain control of your sensitive digital personal information during the divorce process to avoid any of your personal information being shared on the internet or being used against you during the proceedings.
If you require advice on matters related to separation or divorce, please contact Julia Moreno.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.