Please! Be careful how you browse online – a Family Lawyer’s perspective

Rodney Worth
Barrister and Solicitor

Posted on 18/04/2017, Last Updated on 20/03/2019

You are being tracked…

If you are thinking of separating, you have likely jumped on to Google to start researching divorce, property settlement and arrangements for your children, and how to go about achieving these outcomes.

In the process, I assume you will have visited the website of the Family Court of Western Australia, and looked up the details of a few family lawyers in Perth and Western Australia (and hopefully DS Family Law).

The problem is, unless you’ve been careful, you have probably left an obvious trail of your search history, and many of the websites you’ve visited will have dropped a delicious little “cookie” on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Make no mistake – your searches are being tracked and anyone else using your devices will be able to see exactly what you’ve been looking at.

This is particularly problematic for spouses in violent and abusive relationships, where it is essential that separation be managed carefully and, in some cases, without notice to the other spouse (ie, where one spouse must flee to a refuge or other safe-haven).

How to make yourself anonymous online

There are a variety of ways you can search the internet, without leaving an obvious search history:

  1. Password protect your computer, tablet and phone, if you can: however, this might raise its own problems if these devices have never before been password protected. Think carefully about this one.
  2. If possible, do not use your home computer, smartphone or tablet for research or contacting family law firms: consider attending a public library to use their computers, or use your work computer to research family law if your workplace permits private browsing.
  3. Delete your browsing history and cookies manually: the process for doing this varies depending on the browser you are using. The following is a list of the most common browsers – clicking on each one will take you directly to the instructions for cleaning up your search history: Google Chrome;  Microsoft Edge;  Safari.
  4. My personal favourite – use the private browsing mode available in your browser: for Google Chrome, this is called “incognito mode”. For Microsoft Edge, it is called “in private” browsing. The idea is that, when browsing in these modes, your search activity for that particular session is not recorded. This can be particularly useful if deleting browsing history (as above) would raise suspicions.
  5. Beware of the sneaky sync: most modern browsers allow you to login, and thereafter all of your search history is synced between your devices, unless you turn this feature off. You don’t want to be searching for something on your smart phone, and have it appear on the family computer!
  6. Install third party cookie blockers, like Ghostery:
  • Sometimes, a website will drop a cookie on your computer, for the purpose of delivering advertising directly to you, on another website. This is known as “remarketing”.
  • For example, you visit the website for Company X, and later on, an advert for Company X appears on a completely different website. I’m sure you’ll spot the problem with this (especially if your spouse receives a flashing banner image advertising a family law firm when they next “log on”).
  • Please note that family law service providers are not permitted to remarket their services via Google, for safety reasons. If you do see a particular family law firm remarketing, we strongly recommend you report them to Google. Such practice is unethical and dangerous. DS Family Law does not remarket its services.

Keeping yourself safe – other common problems

Ultimately, you need to be constantly vigilant about the footprint you leave whether online or in paper when researching and contacting family lawyers.

Some other common “traps” are:

  1. Telephone records, which show the numbers you have dialed;
  2. Letters of advice from lawyers being sent to your home address (in circumstances where you may still be living with your spouse, or they have access to your letter box);
  3. Your spouse knowing the password to your internet email account (such as gmail, Outlook, Yahoo etc.); and
  4. Bank statements showing payments to a family lawyer.

And the list goes on…

Keep yourself safe, and if you need family law advice, please get in contact with us.

The above does not constitute specific legal advice but is general information only.

Let’s meet, and figure it out

For practical advice about what you should do next, please call to arrange a no-obligation initial consultation.