Smart Home Technology to Combat Domestic Abusers

The advancement of smart home technology has opened the possibility of something harmful, which is internet-connected abuse. There has recently been a trend in which smart home technology has been used for domestic abuse. Domestic abusers take advantage of the internet connected smart home devices to establish their dominance or to harass their partners. There were many instances where the air conditioning would turn off by itself, the front door lock code frequently changing by itself, and the doorbell repeatedly ringing when no one was there. People working at the abuse helplines stated that they saw an increase in calls over the last year that had to do with people who didn’t have control over their smart home devices. Muneerah Budhwani, an advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said “Callers have said the abusers were monitoring and controlling them remotely through the smart home appliances and the smart home systems.”

In the past few years, there has been a rapid increase in smart homes in the U.S., elevating from 17 million in 2015 to 29 million last year. Smart homes are also forecasted to be a $27 billion market by 2021. The NPR observed over 70 domestic violence shelters in the U.S. in 2014 and stated that 85% of them reported working with people who were tracked through GPS. They also reported that 75% reported victims whose abusers spied on them through mobile apps. Another study in 2015 from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria found that 98% of victims “stated that they had clients who had experienced technology-facilitated stalking and abuse.” This is a troubling issue because the rise of emerging tech and product design can contribute to violence against women. It has become very cheap and simple to invest in a smart home and for many of these devices, abusers simply need access to an app to harass their victims. Usually, one person in the relationship is in charge of assembling the technology, knowing how it works and having access to everything. This, gives that person the power to use the smart home devices against the other person.

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