Facebook launches privacy guide for survivors of domestic violence

"Telling a victim to go offline ... further isolates her," said Facebook's Cindy Southworth

By Katie McDonough
Published August 2, 2013 1:13PM (EDT)
        (Heather Martino)
(Heather Martino)

Facebook has launched a privacy guide aimed specifically at survivors of domestic violence, explaining content controls that will allow users to connect with friends and family while minimizing the risk of jeopardizing their safety or being exposed to an abusive partner.

The guide informs users how to control the information they share, makes clear who may be able to see which details they post and how to report abusive communication if and when it happens.

Facebook created the guide in partnership with the National Network to End Domestic Violence in an effort to support the needs of victims and help prevent survivors from feeling isolated, according to NNEDV's Cindy Southworth.

"Privacy and safety go hand in hand for survivors. The most dangerous time for a victim of abuse is when they are preparing to leave or have left an abusive partner," she said. "Telling a victim to go offline to be safe is not only unacceptable, it further isolates her from people who love her.Survivors shouldn’t have to live their lives avoiding every possible situation that the abusive person could misuse."

Beyond providing access to friends and family, social networks can also be a crucial source of support through online survivor groups.

But maintaining one's privacy from an perpetrator is a complicated process, and while the guide is well intentioned, it remains limited, as Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research, told NBC News: "Friends who have less motivation to lock down everything may post an announcement of an event that, in effect, announces the location of a victim. And when victims' comments on friends' posts are made visible, this too can be used to glean information."



Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

MORE FROM Katie McDonoughFOLLOW kmcdonovgh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Domestic Violence Facebook Privacy Violence Against Women Women's Rights