Digital Privacy & Security Guide

For migrant domestic workers

Table of Contents

Date published: 16 September 2021

Date last updated: 29 September 2021

About this guide

Purpose of this guide

This guide is for migrant domestic workers in the UK and elsewhere to keep themselves safe and protect their privacy both online and offline. Privacy refers to how much others (such as the government, employers or even friends and family) can access information about you. We are also concerned with defending against “surveillance”, which is a word for close monitoring and observation by someone in power.

Key term  
Privacy How much information you want others (such as the government, employers or even friends and family) to know about you
Surveillance Close monitoring and observation by someone in power, such as the government or an employer

Our guide starts with some general advice for staying safe online. The guide then focuses on three specific kinds of privacy threat: government surveillance; online scams and strangers; and employer monitoring. These are the threats that domestic workers identified and described to us in five online workshops in May-June 2021.

Each section includes a summary of the problem, practical steps you can take to defend yourself, and further resources. We conclude with calling for broader changes which should happen to keep domestic workers safe. This is because we do not think you should have to be responsible for worrying about your safety all the time: laws, technology and employment practices should be changed to create a fairer and safer world for domestic workers.

Who produced this guide?

This guide was put together by a team of researchers at the University of Oxford and King’s College London, in collaboration with Voice of Domestic Workers, an education and support group run by and for migrant domestic workers and Migrants Organise, a grassroots platform where migrants and refugees organise for justice.

We produced the guide after five workshops with migrant domestic workers, where we discussed different threats to digital privacy and security and advice for staying safe.

Disclaimer: This guide is intended to provide general information and is not a substitute for getting legal advice. If you need advice on your individual situation, you should contact a solicitor or advice organisation, such as Voice Of Domestic Workers, Kalayaan, Praxis, ASIRT, Hackney Migrant Centre, Rights of Women or the Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit.


If you have any questions or feedback, email us at: reconfigure2020 [at] gmail [dot] com

General digital privacy and security advice

Think before you click

Get comfortable with your site’s privacy settings

You can check out these quick privacy guides for your favourite sites to understand which privacy options they have. Wherever possible, it is valuable to reduce how much information about you is public and accessible online. Sometimes these settings can be confusing; you don’t have to read all of these guides, but you may find the links helpful to have. One way to make this easier is teaming up with a friend to check your privacy settings together.

Take time to secure your accounts and devices

Further resources:

Immigration and government surveillance


The UK’s ‘hostile environment’ can make life in the UK difficult and expensive, especially if you do not have indefinite leave to remain. Many workers reported a fear of government institutions, specifically the Home Office and the police, due to the power these structures have over the immigration status of workers. You might feel concern or confusion about your rights, from topics like accessing healthcare in the UK to seeking advice and protection from excessive policing.

Practical advice

No matter your immigration status in the UK, your human rights matter! Here are some practical steps you can take:


If immigration officers or the police stop you in the street and ask about your immigration status:

You can find more information from Anti Raids here.

Further resources


English #PatientsNotPassports Patients Rights Advice


Above is a Digital GP access card, which reminds you of your right to receive treatment at a GP practice regardless of immigration status. This can be downloaded here.

Online scams and harassment


Scammers and strangers on the internet are a threat when they try to steal personal details or money or target you for harassment. Common problems include:

Migrant domestic workers can be specifically targeted by scams due to their status: for example, scammers might offer fake job opportunities or threaten to report you to the Home Office. These kinds of threats can also come from people you meet online, for example, in online dating. Harassment can also come as a result of online activism: speaking out online can lead to attacks like ‘Zoom-bombing’, where strangers intrude on an online meeting and share offensive messages. It can be hard to know who to trust online, as sometimes scammers or ‘trolls’ (people who post harassing messages) will use fake accounts or even steal the identity of friends or family members.

Practical advice

No one deserves to be targeted by scams or harassed online. Citizen’s Advice has some helpful advice on how to recognise a scam and getting your money back after you’ve been scammed as well as protecting yourself online. Their Online Scams Helper can also give you customised advice.

Something might be a scam if:

In addition to general privacy and security advice (see Section 1), the Citizen’s Advice also give advice on protecting yourself online, including:

Further resources

Employer monitoring


Excessive employer monitoring - for example, constant CCTV surveillance or social media stalking - can be a huge threat to your security and privacy. Constant recording can make you feel uncomfortable and stop you from sitting down, resting, or speaking to your family on the phone. Employers should not install cameras or recording devices in private spaces, such as bedrooms and bathrooms. CCTV recording can also be used against you or get you in trouble; for example, if it produces evidence that you were working without a legal right to do so.

In addition to CCTV surveillance, social media surveillance by employers can also be a threat to online safety and impact on your situation in other ways. For example, photos on holiday or at the cinema with employers could be used against you in a court case around the ‘‘family worker exemption’’ (which may allow employers to avoid paying minimum wage if they prove the worker is treated as a member of the family, although the exemption is currently being reviewed.

Know your legal rights with regard to what employers can and cannot do

Practical advice

Further resources

Broader changes

While we hope this guide helps you take control of your digital privacy and security, it’s important to remember that the privacy and security threats we’ve described are not your fault. To keep domestic workers—and everyone else—safe online, we need broader societal changes.

Avoiding surveillance by your employer should not have to be your responsibility. Employers need to understand and respect domestic workers’ right to privacy and safety, and refrain from excessive monitoring.

The government also has responsibilities to keep domestic workers safe, and needs to make changes to do so. We support organisations such as Voice of Domestic Workers in their campaign to reinstate the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa, which guaranteed some basic rights for migrant workers. This visa was unfortunately changed in 2012, so that conditions for workers became much less favourable. Since 2012, migrant domestic workers are instead tied to their employers on six month non-renewable visas, which makes them often unable to escape situations of abuse or harassment. While this visa exists and continues to force workers to be dependent on specific employers, migrant domestic workers have severely limited freedoms and basic human rights are often not valued. This has a direct impact on digital privacy and security. For example, it would be far easier for a worker to confront their employer about surveillance if that worker had more secure employment and immigration status.

Creating safe conditions for migrant domestic workers will require ending hostile environment policies: the hostile environment tries to make the UK inhospitable for undocumented migrants, ultimately creating violent and discriminatory realities for all migrants as well as people of colour. British institutions such as the Home Office continue trying to strengthen the hostile environment, endangering migrants. For example, the UK government is currently pushing a new Nationality and Borders Bill through Parliament. The new bill seeks to strengthen this government’s ability to criminalise people who seek sanctuary in the UK, while at the same time restricting access to crucial resources, such as support for victims of modern slavery. The government should scrap the bill and hostile environment policies that endanger migrant workers. Migrant domestic workers in the UK should be able to access healthcare freely through a truly universal NHS, regardless of citizenship and immigrant status.

The hostile environment also impacts migrant domestic workers through data sharing. Data sharing across different and unrelated government institutions, such as the Home Office and the NHS, is a major barrier to migrant domestic workers feeling safe and being comfortable accessing healthcare. Similarly, police sharing data of victims of crime with immigration enforcement can leave migrants fearful to report abuse.

The government should not police vulnerable workers’ immigration status. Many workers who escape abusive employment situations may have to do so without their passports— police and other law enforcement forces must accommodate this reality.

We call on the government to:

Useful contacts