Privacy

Psychosocial support may involve talking about personal experiences and feelings. Even in stable regions of the world, in the privacy of an office, confidentiality of information is paramount. GPN exists because health and well-beingmay be at particular risk in places where natural disasters or wars have occurred. Yet in some of these difficult circumstances (for example, in politically unstable regions), violations of privacy and confidentiality could put oneself or others at risk.

The GPN team cannot guarantee the security of internet and telephone connections, as digital communication always poses the risk of interception by third parties. However, we have worked hard to develop methods of dialogue that are as confidential as possible, even when privacy is breached. These methods involve GPN members and beneficiaries collaborating to (a) assess the level of risk for each case and (b) develop the necessary steps that should be taken to maintain safety and security.

Methods that we suggest for protecting the confidentiality of information include:

(1) De-identifying personal information. This is the first and most basic step, asit is often unnecessary to use the names of places or people when talking about emotions and personal experiences. So if you are worried that talking about your personal experiences may put yourself or others at risk, you can

…leave out the names of places and people.

…de-identify information when speaking by using an alias for yourself and/or other people and changing the names of locations, institutions, businesses, etc. Many people find it possible to speak about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without naming names or disclosing information that might put themselves/others at risk.

These techniques are presented in our brief training course in de-identification (in development).

(2)Anonymizing and Distancing. If you are concerned about the security of your internet communications (email, chat, or video sessions), there are a number of ways to try to anonymize your connection by distancing yourself from:

(A) Your browser. TOR is a browser that protects your internet communications by bouncing them around a global network of volunteers. Download it to a USB key (not your computer) to enhance security.
(B) Your computer. Use a public computer at a university or internet cafe. Better yet, use TOR on a public computer. But make sure others can’t overhear you.
(C) Your location. Go somewhere else. The farther you go, the more difficult it is to track you.

(3) Other recommendations: Browse using https:// (not http://); Connect via cable instead of WIFI; Use Google Chrome if not TOR; use OtR for instant messaging. Delete history/cookies when you’re finished.

To enhance the security of your telephone calls:

(1) Use a disposable telephone card with prepaid minutes (purchase with cash).
(2) Use a payphone, someone else’s phone, or a different SIM card.
(3) In the United States, hit *67 before dialing to block your caller ID number.

GPN members aspire to high standards for privacy and confidentiality of information. Though we cannot guarantee the security of information (especially over Skype and other commercial communication services), we hope that the steps above will assist beneficiaries who are concerned about third-party interception. We also believe that therapists and activists often know the best means of secure communication from their specific locations. If you have any requests for specific communication channels, just let us know.