Domestic Violence and the Internet of Things
When domestic violence comes up it is often thought of as physical or verbal abuse. Both of which are hard to escape as they tear away at one’s self-esteem and create fear. However, with the evolution of technology and “smart” home devices there comes another way for victims to suffer. These days, domestic violence is increasingly involving the control over victims through these devices, such as automatic locks and lights. Even if a victim seeks help and successfully gets away from the perpetrator, with a restraining order in place, the control from outside could still be in place.
As technology becomes more easily and widely produced, it also becomes much less expensive. That means high tech gadgets only thought to be for the rich are entering the homes of everyday blue-collar families. It’s incredible what we can do and have control over in our homes, but with control comes great responsibility.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things refers to all devices and tech connected to each other, another device, or app that can control them. They could be interconnected through a home network, through the internet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or other means.
These are some items that allow control over internet-connected devices:
- Personal Assistants – Alexa/Amazon Echo/Dot, Google Home, etc. – Voice automated and often may control lights, music, phone call, text messages, information searches, and other tasks
- Home Automation Systems – Nest, Arduino, etc. – Control thermostat, lights and may connect with other devices
- Apps – Those that allow web-based control through a mobile device and often are used with certain brands to connect throughout the home.
- Settings – pre-programmed routines users may have, for example, the door unlocking upon approaching the door, the lights turning on, music may begin, and the thermostat can change to a preferred temperature.
List of Devices That May Also Be Connected
- Smart lightbulbs
- Smart electrical outlets (with lights or other devices plugged into them)
- Entertainment systems (stereo, TV, etc.)
- Hubs that are located on a bedside table, in a closet or other location throughout the house that connect to the home personal assistant
- Security cameras and motion detectors
- Smoke detectors
- Video doorbells
- Smart locks
- Appliances (refrigerator, vacuum, etc.)
- Pet feeders, nanny or pet cams, toys, and trackers
- Children’s toys and trackers
While many of these devices can help keep a victim safe, if the passwords and accounts were accessible to the perpetrator prior to leaving them, they may still have access. This can be very dangerous as those in control can access much of what’s happening in their house without actually being there. They may lock and unlock the doors, turn the temperature to uncomfortable levels, turn the lights on and off, turn on the music and adjust the volume, and see video surveillance. Connected home devices have increasingly become a part of domestic violence cases throughout the past year. According to those at help-lines, a lot more people were calling in about losing control of Wi-Fi enable doors, speakers, thermostats, lights, and cameras.
The problem now is finding the language on how to put smart home appliances within restraining orders, and unfortunately, it is not something many victims think of at the time of their court cases. But it is now something that needs to be brought up each time and discussed.
Be Smart When Buying and Using Smart Devices
When you are thinking about purchasing a smart device, make sure to consider if it is something that needs to be connected and whether the benefits will outweigh the risks. To gain back control of certain devices you should contact the company that made it, or currently works on the system, and seek to change the account ownership and access. Changing your Wi-Fi and network settings (such as the password) will allow you to cut someone else off it or call for help if you believe someone is breaching your security. Lastly, replacing the devices, such as the lights and thermostats, back to manual or with a new system, will give you back the access and security.
Regaining control of systems and devices might escalate harmful behavior from the perpetrator as they start to lose control. It is important to make others (the police, security, friends and/or family) aware of what’s going on to ensure your safety in case they plan to act further.
If you or a loved one is suffering from domestic violence of any kind, including technological control, give us a call. You do not deserve to lose control of the place you should feel most comfortable. Attorney Anthony Carbone will fight for you in a time like this to ensure you get you home and your life back.