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Bay Area tech expert inspired to help people safeguard online privacy

Bay Area woman helps people safeguard online privacy
Bay Area woman helps people safeguard online privacy 03:06

SAN FRANCISCO -- A Bay Area woman who experienced deadly violence in her childhood home is now on a mission to help others secure their digital footprint.

Many tech users worry about privacy, but for victims of domestic violence, online security is a matter of life and death. Veronica Toscano has created a YouTube page with videos designed for the tech novice, covering two-step authentication for social media accounts, and free "spam phone number" set-up so users do not have to give a real phone number out of they don't want to. 

Veronica Toscano
Veronica Toscano CBS

Toscano's delivery gives her videos with a fresh, fun and friendly vibe.

"There is so much that I want to average person to know. When you go to the grocery store, you want to get the discount. Trust me, I want to get this," said Toscano. "But I don't want to put my real phone number out there because I don't know what the store is doing with my number. So I use my spam number to sign up for these accounts. I still get my savings, but it's going to my spam number."

The 35-year-old privacy expert advice is consumer friendly, but serious. Past childhood traumas, not store discounts, are Toscano's true inspiration.

"Growing up in the '90s, my family and I lived in hiding from my dad, because he shot and killed my brother," recalled Toscano. "Then he turned around to shoot at my mom, my mom survived but he was never captured."

After the shooting, Toscano's  father fled to Mexico. Toscano and the rest of her family -- including her mom -- lived in fear for years, never knowing if  he would return.

"He never served a day in prison for the crime he committed," Toscano told KPIX5 in 2021. "He fled the scene. You know there isn't a playbook of what you do, or a plan when your husband shoots and kills your son. How do you pick yourself up from that?"

But Toscano says her family was actually safer back then, now that technology has changed so dramatically in the past 20 years.

"It was more challenging to find out where someone lived, because the Internet wasn't at your fingertips," explained Toscano. "Now fast, I've become so passionate about it because I think about people who are domestic violence survivors, and you can find out where anyone lives by doing a Google search."

As the Chief of Staff to Cisco Systems' Chief Privacy Officer, Toscano has shared her own domestic violence experience with friends, co-workers and her online audience.

"Take control of your digital foot print. [You] get to decide what you want out there...That's why I am here," Toscano said during one video. "While your story may not be my story, I want to share my tips and tricks."

Tips and tricks Toscano says she hopes will inspire and empower others to safeguard themselves online. She plans on adding other videos as people reach out to her with tech questions.

"It goes back to educating people to enable them," said Toscano. "To create opportunities for all."

More information and advice about online security is available on Toscano's website.

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