Smart home services are often positioned in a way that suggests they will make us safer. But what happens if that tech falls into the hands of an abuser? A woman said she was stalked and harassed by a former partner using smart home technology, according to a CBC report.
Ferial Nijem shared her story with the Canadian publication, highlighting how internet-connected everything can put a person in a dangerous situation if used with malicious intent. According to Nijem, her partner would often check in on her using security cameras placed around the house. He would keep an eye on her even while thousands of miles away from home. He would constantly check in with her via FaceTime, requiring her to show him if she was with anyone else.
She told the CBC that during a particularly difficult part of their relationship when they were living apart, he started using other internet-connected devices throughout the house to disrupt her. She said that he would take over the audio system and blare music at top volume in the middle of the night. He’d also turn the lights and television on and off, causing a considerable amount of disturbance for Nijem and her dogs. Because she didn’t have control over the smart devices, she couldn’t make the harassment stop.
Unfortunately, Nijem’s story is not a unique one. A New York Times story published earlier this year highlighted cases of abusers tormenting people with smart home technology. Incidents in the story included cases where abusers would lock someone out of the house, take control of lights and speakers throughout the home, and crank the thermostat up to 100 degrees to make it incredibly unpleasant to remain in the house. The victims of this type of abuse are often made to think they’re going crazy as they lose control of their environment, adding an additional layer of psychological abuse to the situation.
Technology is becoming an increasingly common tool in perpetrating this type of abusive behavior. A survey of more than 70 domestic violence shelters in the U.S. conducted in 2014 by NPR found that 85 percent of shelters reported working with victims who were tracked through GPS and 75 percent reported working with victims who were spied on using mobile apps.