Safer Digital Connections: Technology Abuse and Ways to Support Safety
Oct 04, 2022
We are more digitally connected now than ever. Our smart phones provide unlimited access to nearly everything: basic phone calls and texts, social media, banking, GPS, online shopping, and more.
Over the last decade, technology has been slowly moving beyond our phone or computer screens. Now, it lives in our homes, vehicles and even children’s toys. Technology is evolving with us, where its goal is to make our lives easier. However, there are many ways that tech can be misused, especially by abusers who are using it to gain and keep power and control over a current or former intimate partner. Research indicates that technology is commonly used to monitor, stalk, control or harass an intimate partner. It is important to consider your personal safety when using new technology or devices.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices connected to each other and to a device or app that can control them. Devices may be connected through the internet, Bluetooth (short-range wireless transmission) or other means, making them practical tools that can improve quality of life. Once connected, companies can collect and share data about how people are using their devices, and about their environment, activity, and interests. These devices can also be misused for control over a partner:
Security Devices: Smart home security cameras, doorbells, lights, locks, etc.
Wearable Devices: Health trackers, watches, sleep trackers, mood sensors, etc.
Smart Appliances: Speakers, home assistants, etc.
Tracking Devices: GPS trackers, etc.
Tracking devices can pose a serious threat to unknowing victims. The small, lightweight trackers can be attached to a keychain, a vehicle, or even just dropped in a bag. While this technology may seem great for lost items, it can put unsuspecting victims in harm’s way if they are being tracked without their knowledge or consent.
Some companies have tried to tackle this stalking potential with a feature that will alert the phone user if they are being unknowingly tracked with a device. If the user is unable to find the tracker, it will start chiming after a day. The biggest downside to this is that it only helps certain users.
One company also recently launched a feature in their most recent software update, which was designed to provide abuse victims with more safety and tools to escape a dangerous situation. They worked with the National Network to End Domestic Violence to develop this feature, which allows users to review and reset who has access to their accounts, location information, passwords, messages, and more. A partner who abuses may access accounts as a tactic to gain and maintain control.
Survivors of domestic violence have to deal with many technology safety concerns as they seek safety. The Tech Safety Center has a Survivor Toolkit with important resources. To talk to someone who can answer questions and provide support, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or by online chat.
The Center for Family Safety and Healing provides Advocacy Services, including assistance with the development of safety plans and linkages to community resources. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (614) 722-8293.
Alena Schuckmann is the Digital Communications Specialist for The Center for Family Safety and Healing. Alena graduated with a degree in communications and a minor in art from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. Alena is a skilled digital content creator who has had various articles and photographs published locally and nationwide.
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