Through our support of many NFP and community focussed organisations, we find ourselves doing a fair bit of work with organisations that help people experiencing family and domestic violence. And, as part of this work, when we develop websites for these orgs, we’re regularly asked to add a “quick exit” button to websites.
This is because people visiting these websites could be at risk if a potentially abusive partner discovers they’ve been looking for help. The idea of the quick exit button is to enable these people to quickly hide their browsing activity.
Unfortunately, quick exit buttons don’t work for lots of reasons.
While they allow the person to quickly navigate away from the website, there’s very little web developers can do to make a visit to a website untraceable. A potentially abusive partner with few technical skills can very easily look at the browser’s history, or find other traces of visits to websites.
You could consider the quick exit button to actually be dangerous in that it gives a false sense of security to vulnerable people.
Our recommendation has always been to encourage vulnerable people to use the “private browsing” mode that’s available in all web browsers, including the browser on your phone. It’s known as Incognito in Chrome.
The Brave browser is a good option for people who prefer a more private browsing experience in general. Recently Brave have announced they’ll be adding a great way to protect just the kind of vulnerable people who need a quick exit button to work.
The idea is to enable websites to tell the browser to offer an “off the record” visit to the website. So, when you visit a website that provides information about domestic violence, the browser will ask you if you want to hide your activity. If you say yes, no trace of your visit will be saved on your computer or phone, but you’ll be able to continue browsing as normal.
This has some advantages over using an Incognito/private window.
It’s easy to forget to open a private window before visiting a site, especially under stress, thus causing the site visit to be permanently recorded. And it’s equally as easy to forget to close the private window, and thus continue browsing in the private window beyond just the target sensitive site. This can reveal to the abuser that private browsing modes have been used, which on its own may elicit suspicion or put the victim at further risk.
While this will only currently work for people using the Brave browser, Brave are hoping to work with other browser vendors to bring this “off the record” (OTR) feature to every browser on every device. We’d love to see this in Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox in the near future.
In the meantime, it’s easy to tell supporting browsers like Brave that you’d like your website to offer “off the record” browsing. Just ask your web developer to include the header Request-OTR: 1 in the response to the initial visit to the website. If you’re using WordPress, you just download and install our simple plugin.
We hope this info helps you to support your clients and community to access the content they need to in a safe and secure way. Of course if you need a hand, hit us up anytime.