Frequently Asked Questions

Consider the following tips and suggestions to help use this website in the most safe manner.

Use a private device. If you believe your computer or device is being monitored or isn’t safe, consider using a computer from a friend or a public library. You can find the nearest library by visiting https://publiclibraries.com/. Read the Using Public Libraries FAQ text for more information.

Use private browsing. Most browsers have a privacy mode that allows you to visit websites without storing any record of your activity on your computer or device. Learn more about private browsing in the FAQ "How to browse privately/incognito in major browsers."

Clear your cache, history, and cookies. If you visited a site without privacy mode, you can delete and records of your activity by clearing your cache, history, and cookies on your computer or device. Keep in mind that if someone is actively monitoring your computer, erasing this data could alert them to the fact that you are trying to conceal your actions.  Learn more about deleting your browser history in the FAQ "How to delete browser history in major browsers."

Use the Safety Button in this website to quickly go to a different screen within your browser window. The Safety Button action logs you out of this website and loads a Google search page within your browser.

Note: The browser's back button and browser history remain in the browser window. Please read and follow tips and suggestions found within the F.A.Q. section regarding online safety and methods such as "incognito" or safe browsing options.

Web browsers keep track of your past activity for a reason.  This history helps you retrace your steps, bring back pages you want to refer to again, and reach your favorite sites more quickly.  All of this can come in handy at times, but your internet history contains all of your past browsing sessions (the list of sites and pages that you have visited in the past), some of which you may not wish others who use the same computer or device to find.  Today's web browsers, however, make it very simple to erase your history and get rid of your online tracks.

Browsers also track your download history, which is a list of files you've downloaded. Don't confuse this history with the actual downloaded files themselves, which you have stored somewhere on your computer's disk. It's simply a list of references to them, which helps when you've previously downloaded a file and now can't find it, or if you want to download the same file again.

Next, there are cookies, little pieces of code that sites store on your system. Cookies help websites recognize who you are, but there are many different forms. For example, if you go to a weather website and it immediately shows you the cities whose weather conditions you've previously searched, that's a cookie in action. If you come back to a previously visited shopping site and it still has the same items in your shopping cart, again, that's cookies at work. These files don't harm your computer, but some users don't prefer to be tracked this way and prefer to delete them regularly.

Browsers also keep a "cache," containing local copies of graphics and other elements that your browser uses to load pages more quickly. When you return to a site you've just visited, for example, the browser may pull site images from the cache intead of pulling them from the web again. In this way, the amount of data downloaded is reduced,  and the whole page-loading process is sped up. 

When you decide to erase your internet history, most browsers will list all these types of data separately. If you decide to clear everything out, you will start all over again as if you had a new browser on a new computer.  Or you may wish to keep certain types of files, like the cookies and cache, to make your browsing life more convenient.

In Google Chrome click on the three dots to the right of the address bar opening the application menu, then click "Settings". Scroll down and click "Advanced", then click "Clear browsing data". Select from the list options, set the time period you want to clear, then click the "Clear browsing data" button. Note: If you've set your browser to sync with other computers via a Google account, clearing your history will also delete that data across all the other devices that you've signed into in Chrome.

In Mozilla Firefox  click the three horizontal lines to the right of the address bar to open the Firefox menu, then select "Options" (called Preferences in the macOS version of the browser). Click "Privacy", then click the link marked "Clear your recent history". Switch to the "Details" tab to see different types of data, and set the time period using the drop-down menu at the top and click "Clear Now" to confirm.

In Apple Safari on macOS, your browsing history will be deleted by opening the Safari menu and then clicking "Clear History". Select the time period you want to erase from the drop-down menu, then click "Clear History" to confirm the action. Note: When you clear your Safari history, you won't get the option to delete different types of data, wiping out your cookies and cached files along with your history.

In your Microsoft Edge browser, to clear your browsing history, click the three dots to the right of the address bar, then select "Settings" from the menu that appears. Under the "Clear browsing data" heading, click "Choose what to clear". Next, make your choices from the list, which includes browsing history and cached data, and then click "Clear".

In Internet Explorer, you clear your browsing history by clicking the cog icon in the top-right corner then selecting "Internet options". On the subsequent dialog box, open the "General" tab and click "Delete" under Browsing history. Then choose your data types and click "Delete" to finish..

In the Windows version of the Opera browser, first click 'Menu' in the top left of the screen. Then select "More tools" and "Clear browsing data" to bring up the correct dialog box.  Then choose your data type, specify the time period, and click "Clear browsing data". On macOS, Opera requires a slightly different process: Open the menu, click "Preferences", then select "Privacy & security", and then click "Clear Browsing Data". You'll then end up with the same history-clearing options—types of data, time period, etc—that you would see if you were in the Windows version.

There are several options available for creating a free email account with services such as Gmail and Yahoo. The accounts will differ in the amount of email storage, interface, and the types of advanced features are included, such as messaging, filters, and the ability to import other data.

Gmail

  • Extremely versatil​e and available across atll types of devices
  • Regularly adds new features and updates
  • Will allow the user to "un-send" an email

Sign up: https://www.google.com/intl/en-GB/gmail/about/

Gmail's clean and uncluttered interface is regularly improved and upgraded, with useful new features added. Among these newer features is the ability to recall an email if you accidentally hit the send (or reply-all) button, the option to snooze messages so they can be brought back to your attention later, and a Confidential mode that prevents messages being forwarded, copied or downloaded by recipients, and adding time-limits so that messages delete themselves after a specified period.  Gmail can automatically filter emails into Primary, Social, Promotions and Forums, and although this is a good approach, folders for organizing messages aren’t supported. Instead you would attach labels, such as work, personal and family. Clicking a label shows all the messages tagged with it, essentially making it a search term.

Gmail is excellent at filtering out spam and offers useful extras such as quick links to track deliveries, amend reservations, and more without opening the email and searching for a link.  Emails from other accounts can be pulled and contacts imported, so switching to Gmail is painless. In addition,  integration with the Google Drive provides you with 15GB of free storage for email (and other Google services), but there's a 25MB limit on attachments, which is more restrictive than some other options.

Outlook

  • Clean design
  • Supports multiple email accounts
  • Many useful features

Sign up: https://outlook.live.com/owa/

Microsoft’s Outlook.com email service replaced Hotmail several years ago. While it has the same name as the desktop software that had been a part of Office for so long, the web and mobile versions offer less options by comparison. For many people this is actually a good thing, as the free service still includes lots of useful features and tools.  The ability for emails to be organised into folders is one of these, with the option of setting rules to automate any future arrivals. Multiple email accounts can also be used, so you can have your Gmail addressed message delivered in Outlook. And, there’s a comprehensive junk mail filter in operation and you have the ability to automate messages for when you’re away. 

In addition, the Focused inbox which you can enable to prioritise messages from senders that you choose, the Sweep feature which moves or deletes all messages from a sender or all messages out past a certain date, not to mention tight calendar integration so that invites and travel arrangement emails appear in your schedule, and temporary email aliases and several other thoughtful tools, for many it's just as good as Gmail.

Yahoo Mail

  • 1 TB of storage space
  • Shortcuts to images, documents, and attachments
  • Integrated GIFs, emojis, and graphics for emails

Sign up: https://login.yahoo.com

Yahoo's email service has a modern look and feel, with many useful features.  Yahoo's search has been enhanced in order to return emails, images, files and contacts, all easily accessible from shortcuts in the navigation column, and if you search for a contact, you'll see your entire conversation history. Event and package delivery reminders also appear at the top of your inbox, making it harder to overlook them.

Other email accounts likeGmail, Outlook, etc. can be added so you can see all your messages in a single location, holiday responses are available, and disposable addresses can be created so your privacy can be preserved, when necessary.  Ads do exist in Yahoo Mail, and they seem more obvious than on some other services, but you do get a whopping 1TB of free storage so this may make dealing with the ads more palatable.

Tutanota

  • 1 GB mail storage
  • End-to-End Encryption
  • Access passwords allow secure emails with non-Tutanota users

Sign up: https://tutanota.com/

Ensuring online privacy is becoming more and more difficult. However, there are a few secure mail serices that offer free accounts.  ProtonMail is possibly more well known, but  Tutanota is a solid alternative.  This German company delivers 1GB of  free mail storage(twice that of ProtonMail), with every email protected by end-to-end encryption and now searchable within the apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android. To fly under Google's radar, Android users can download the app on F-Droid instead of from the Play store, and push notifications are not sent through Google’s service, yet are still delivered instantly.

Tutanota users can exchange fully encrypted messages directly, but thanks to the use of access passwords non-Tutanota users can still share send and receive emails with little impact on your security or convenience. The free service is basic yet perfectly usable, allowing users only one account and limited searches, but you can purchase a Premium option that offers aliases, mailbox rules, unlimited searches, and custom domains.

There are several options available when searching for a place to use a public computer.  If free use is a requirement, your best bet will be a public library.  Libraries provide patrons with opportunities to use computers and other devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, ebook readers, etc.) to access online resources such as library catalogs, research databases, ebooks, other digital content, and the Internet.  Patrons use library computers to create content including word processing documents, multimedia projects, email messages, and posts to social media and other websites.  In addition, libraries often provide wired and wireless public networks that allow patrons to connect using a personal device.  For more information regarding library privacy guidelines, please visit: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/privacy/guidelines/public-access-computer

The following businesses offer the use of computer rental stations:

Staples

FedEx Office

The UPS Store

Another option is an Internet Cafe.  An Internet café (also known as a cyber café) is a cafe that provides Internet access to the public. The fee for using a computer is generally charged as a time-based rate.

 

All of today’s major web browsers—Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari—offer a feature that provides a private/incognito browsing window and deletes the browsing history on your computer after you close it. (To open a private window, go to the File menu and look near the New Window option.) These windows can help reduce the amount of information collected on you. 

How to start Google Chrome Incognito (CTRL+SHIFT+N)

Google calls its private browsing feature Incognito. To open a new Incognito window, click the "Customize and control Google Chrome" button in the top right corner of the browser window that looks like three dots. Then, choose "New incognito window."

A new window will open, explaining what incognito browsing means: Google Chrome does not save your browsing history, cookies and site data, and the information entered in forms (e.g., addresses, passwords, etc.). Any files you download or bookmarks you create are kept. Lastly, Incognito disables Google Chrome extensions, but you can manually enable them to work in this mode as well.  In Google Chrome you can recognize an Incognito window by its logo in the top-right corner: an image of a person in disguise (hat and dark glasses).

How to start Mozilla Firefox in Private Browsing (CTRL+SHIFT+P)

To enable Private Browsing in Mozilla Firefox, click or tap the "Open menu" button in the top right side of the browser window. It has the shape of three parallel lines stacked on top of each other. Then, choose "New Private Window."

A new private window is opened with content blocking enabled. When browsing in Firefox private mode, it does not keep your browsing history, search history, download history, web form history, cookies, or temporary internet files. But, the files that you download and the bookmarks you make are saved. Firefox explicitly warns you that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or employer can still track the pages that you visit, the other browsers will not.  Another difference is that content blocking is enabled by default, so that online trackers do not collect information about your browsing behavior.  To see if your current Mozilla Firefox window has Private Browsing enabled, look for the purple mask icon in the top right corner of the browser window. If shown, you are browsing privately.

How to start Microsoft Edge in InPrivate browsing (CTRL+SHIFT+P)

Microsoft Edge uses the same name for its private browsing mode as the old Internet Explorer: InPrivate browsing. To start a new browser window in this mode, click the "Settings and more" button in the top-right corner. It looks like three dots. In the menu that is shown, choose "New InPrivate window."  You can tell that you are using InPrivate browsing in Microsoft Edge by looking at the top-left corner of the app window. There, you see the InPrivate label in a blue square.

How to start Opera in Private Browsing (CTRL+SHIFT+N)

To open a private browsing window in Opera, click the "Customize and control Opera" button found on the top left side of the browser window. Then, click "New private window."  A new Private Browsing window opens, giving you some information about this browsing mode. You are also informed that you can turn on the built-in VPN for more privacy. This button is found on the left side of the address bar. Extensions are also disabled in this mode.  To check if you are Private Browsing in Opera, watch for the sunglasses logo on the left side of the tab you are on.

How to start Internet Explorer in InPrivate browsing (CTRL+SHIFT+P)

Microsoft also uses the term InPrivate for private browsing in Internet Explorer (IE 8 and newer). To enable theis mode in the desktop version of Internet Explorer,  open the Tools menu by clicking the little gear icon on the top-right. Then, hover over Safety to open the corresponding submenu and click InPrivate Browsing.  Internet Explorer opens a new browser window, where the notification is displayed: "InPrivate is turned on. InPrivate Browsing helps prevent Internet Explorer from storing data about your browsing session." The browser does not store cookies, temporary Internet files, the browsing history, and other data. By default, it will also disable extra toolbars and extensions you have installed in Internet Explorer.To check if you are using InPrivate browsing, look at the left side of the address bar. If you see the logo "InPrivate" at the top left of your screen, InPrivate browsing is turned on in Internet Explorer.

 

Caution: Before continuing, please think about whether the computer or the device you’re using is safe. Do you think a person causing harm to you has or had access to this device and may be monitoring you? If you feel this is a possibility, please exit out of this window and continue the application process on a safe device. Public libraries, some local courthouses, and advocate agencies may have computers or devices that you can use. Trusted friend or family member may be willing to let you use their computers or devices. When using any type of device, be careful about allowing the device to save your passwords.

Spyware is a software program that can secretly collect personal information when you’re online. Keylogger spyware records the keystrokes you make on a keyboard. How do you know whether spyware has been installed on your device? Some red flags to consider if you think spyware may be on your device are:

• the device takes a long time to shut down;
• the screen turns on when not in use or there’s an unusual battery drain;
• the battery is warm at rest; 
• you notice spikes in data use or increased charges on your phone bill, or
• the person causing harm knows details about private conversations you've had with others and has had access to your devices.

Again, if you think the technology you are using is suspect, please exit this window, wipe the history, and use a more secure device.