More Domestic Abusers Are Reportedly Using Smart-Home Technology To Terrorize Their Victims & It Is Deeply Unsettling.

Smart-home technology has become an increasingly popular feature within homes, but its rising popularity has also given rise to something extremely dangerous, internet-based abuse. 

A new report from the New York Times has revealed an alarming trend in which smart-home technology is being used as a tool of domestic abuse. The tech is used in abusive relationships as a form of psychological warfare and surveillance, and that is seriously messed up. 

According to the New York Times, domestic abusers are using internet connected items like the thermostat, locks, speakers, lights, and other smart-home technology to harass and control their partners. One woman spoke about how the air conditioner shut off without her even touching it. Another woman spoke of how everyday her front door lock would change, and another woman said her doorbell would repeatedly ring but no one was there. The abusers would use the apps on their phones to control objects within the home, often as a way of showing their power of their partner. 

Smart-home tech abuse has seen a rapid increase in domestic abuse cases, the New York Times reports. In the last 12 months, domestic abuse helplines saw a drastic increase in calls from people about “losing control” over their connected-technology. 

“Callers have said the abusers were monitoring and controlling them remotely through the smart home appliances and the smart home system,” said Muneerah Budhwani, who works for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, to the Times. She also mention how she started to hear victims stories about smart home abuse last winter.

In the past few years, more homes have become “connected” in the United States. According to a report by McKinsey, 29 million homes in the US had some form of smart-home technology in 2017, and it is expected to grow into a major market industry by 2021. Of course, technology has been used as a source of abuse and surveillance for years. In 2014 NPR found that in 70 domestic violence shelters in the US, 85 percent of them had victims who were tracked by GPS. Seventy-five percent of victims reported there abusers spying on them through their mobile apps. A 2015 study done by the Domestic Violence Resource Center Victoria found that 98 percent of participants had experienced some form of technology stalking and abuse.

These devices, created by some of the biggest tech companies, are aimed at making life easier. What is particularly troubling though is that this fast-growing industry directly contributes to intimate partner violence and domestic violence. It has become incredibly cheap and easy for smart-home technology to be installed and then misused and, for many of these devices, all that is needed is an app. Most of the time, women are those who’ve been the target for this type of abuse, the New York Times reports. 

If you or someone you know is the victim of intimate partner violence or domestic violence, please know you are not alone. You can contact the National Domestic Violence hotline online or call 1-800-799-7233.