Cover your tracks online

You may not want other people to know you have been searching for certain information or help from websites such as ours, if so here are some ways you can ‘cover your tracks’.

When you browse the internet on a computer, mobile phone or tablet the information is stored. This means for every website you visit information is gathered behind the scenes with a trail (‘history’) saved. This search history remains even after you have exited the website, page and internet. If you believe you may be in danger from visiting our site or just wish to remove the information please follow these instructions to reduce the risk of someone finding out.

Remember: If you have accounts linked across devices, such as a Google or iCloud account your search history may be shared across these devices. If you clear the history on one it should clear on the others too, but it’s always good to double check and it may also be necessary to clear your activity history in your account too. For more information check individual instructions for each account.

Please note, the information below is for guidance only and may not completely ‘cover your tracks’. If you want to be completely sure of not being tracked online, the safest way would be to access the internet at a local library, an internet cafe, friend’s house, at work or by using an iPlus point.

While you are visiting our site – ‘CHANGE SITE?’ button.

If you are in a rush to leave the site you can use the ‘Change Site’ button hovering in the top right of every page on this site. This will quickly change the site, redirecting you to the BBC news page, but you will still need to delete your internet search history after to fully cover your tracks.

Clearing your desktop/laptop search history.

Please note, depending which options you choose this may clear all history on the device, including other people’s passwords and searches alerting them to the fact the history has been cleared or cookies deleted. If you share your device with others it may be best to only clear specific items.

Most desktops and laptops will use the short cut CTRL H to access the history, alternatively follow the steps below or the link to the relevant support site.

Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge:

  1. Go to ‘History’ (this can be found in the browser menu list, usually 3 dots on the toolbar).
  2. Choose individual items to clear from your history such as this site or click on ‘Clear History’ for a fuller clear.
  3. If you select ‘Clear history’ a new page will appear, select all the options you wish to clear then select ‘clear’.
  4. There is also the option to turn on the ‘always clear this when I close the browser’ option, but remember this will clear ALL your browsing history regularly not just this site.

(The process may differ slightly depending which version you are using.)

For further advice visit Microsoft Support page: https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/17438/windows-internet-explorer-view-delete-browsing-history

Firefox/Mozilla:

  1. Go to ‘Library’ (this can be found in the browser menu list, usually 3 horizontal lines on the toolbar).
  2. Select ‘history’ for the option to view your history where you can right click on items to delete, recent closed tabs and ‘Clear your recent history’.
  3. If you chose ‘Clear recent history’ you can choose which items you delete.
  4. In ‘Options’ > ‘Privacy & Security’ > ‘History’ you can also turn on a setting which regularly clears your search history. Remember though this will clear ALL your browsing history regularly not just this site.

(The process may differ slightly depending which version you are using.)

For further advice visit Mozilla Support: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/clear-cookies-and-site-data-firefox

Google Chrome:

  1. Go to ‘History’ (this can be found in the browser menu, usually 3 dots on the toolbar).
  2. A new sub-menu may open showing your search history > at the top select ‘history’.
  3. A new window will then open where you will have the option to clear individual items from your search history by checking the boxes such as this site.
  4. If you want to do a more thorough clear select ‘Clear browser data’ in the left-hand menu > a new window will open giving you more options.

(The process may differ slightly depending which version you are using.)

For more information visit Google Chrome Help: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95589?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en

Safari:

  1. Go to ‘History’ (which can be found under the ‘Safari’ menu on the top of the screen) whilst the browser is open.
  2. Select ‘Clear History’ then a new window will pop-up.
  3. Choose how far back you want to clear then select ‘clear history’.

For more information visit Apple Support: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/safari/sfri47acf5d6/mac

Similar options can be found on other browsers/search engines.

Clearing your phone/tablet search history.

Google app:

  1. Go into the app and select the ‘more’ option (3 white dots or 3 horizontal lines).
  2. Then select ‘history’ which you may have to find under ‘Settings’ > ‘Privacy & Security’ or ‘Search activity’
  3. You can choose to clear individual items or clear all.

For more information visit Google Chrome Help https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95589?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en

Microsoft Edge app (Previously Internet Explorer):

(The process may vary slightly depending which version you are using)

  1. Go into the app and select the 3 white dots or the 3 horizontal lines.
  2. Then select ‘history’.
  3. You can choose to clear individual items or clear all.

For more information visit Microsoft Support: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-edge

Safari app:

  1. Go into the app and click on the bookmark’s icon (the open book image).
  2. Then select the history icon (the clock face).
  3. You can choose to clear individual items or clear everything.
  4. Alternatively, you can go to the ‘Settings’ app > scroll down to find ‘Safari’ > scroll down and select ‘Clear History and Website Data’.

For more information visit Apple Support: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201265

Private browsing/incognito mode.

All leading web browsers have a ‘private browsing’ or ‘incognito mode’ which ensures your search activity is not recorded. This won’t stop online services from seeing what you get up to with regards to cookies etc. but it will not leave any tracks of your activity on your browser/search engine (no history, web cache or anything else) and so it’s always a useful step to take.

Internet Explorer: Go to the menu (3 dots on the browser toolbar) > select ‘New InPrivate Window’ which will open up a new page which you can safely browse in.

Firefox: Click the Menu button (3 horizontal lines on the browser toolbar) > select ‘New Private Window’, this will open a new window where you can browse safely.

Google Chrome: Click the Menu button (3 dots on the browser toolbar) > select ‘New incognito window’. A new browser window will open for you to visit websites privately and safely.

These options can also be found on mobile phone and tablet browser apps.

Microsoft Edge: In the app > 3 white dots > scroll down > select ‘New InPrivate tab’. To leave go to the tabs option and select ‘Tabs’ – remember to delete your tabs first.

Google Chrome: In the app > select more (3 white dots) > select ‘New incognito tab’. To leave go to the tabs icon (the box with a number in) and delete the tab.

Safari: In the app > select the new page option (2 overlapping squares) > select private and open a tab. To leave follow the same process – remember to delete your tabs first.

Similar options can be found on other browsers/search engines.

It is also good practice to double check your search history setting just to be extra sure. Follow the steps above on how to complete this.

Predictive Text and Toolbar memory.

There is a possibility, even after clearing your search history you may still find the browser or device is remembering your activity to personalise your experience. If this happens check individual instructions or visit the relevant organisations support page for further information on your item.

Email

There are times where you may wish to delete emails you have sent to keep you safe or information private.

When you send an email, it will automatically be saved in your ‘Sent’ box, or ‘Outbox’ if for some reason it failed to send. Also, if you start an email but don’t finish it, it might be saved in your ‘Drafts’ folder. Your previous emails and replies may also appear in the body of an email you receive a response to, other people’s emails to you will automatically save in your ‘Inbox’.

All of these emails can be deleted, how depends on which email platform you use, but usually quite simply by selecting the cross next to the email or in the menu bar, or by selecting the image of a bin. However, the majority of email programmes such as Outlook do not really ‘delete’ the item, they move it to a folder called ‘Deleted Items’. You have to delete the items in ‘Deleted Items’ box separately for it to really disappear.

If you wish to keep a copy of an email you need to delete, either print a copy of the email to keep somewhere safe or forward it to someone you trust. Remember there are times where an email may be printed and saved as evidence.

Don’t forget to create passwords and log out.

It’s always important to keep devices and information secure and private whatever your situation, and to regularly update your passwords. If you do not use a password to log on to your computer someone else will be able to access your personal information such as emails, track your internet usage and possibly access saved log in details, potentially using them in a malicious way. If you make a habit of creating passwords and regularly updating them, other people who may access your devices at times will be less likely to question the behaviour or think it is suspicious when you do.