Government Urged to Tackle Technology-Facilitated Abuse
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is urging the government to do more to tackle technology-facilitated abuse. Connected devices such as baby monitors and smart speakers are increasingly being used to survey, harass, and control domestic abuse victims, according to MPs. The rise in so-called “tech abuse” involves the use of smart technology and connected devices to broaden and facilitate patterns of abuse.
Official figures show that there are on average nine connected devices in every household in the UK, and by 2050, there will be 24 billion interconnected devices worldwide. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report found that the vast majority of domestic abuse cases now feature “some sort of cyber element,” including the use of spyware. Perpetrators are able to monitor movements and collect recordings and images of victims and survivors.
Refuge, the largest specialist provider of gender-based violence services in the UK, reported that 59% of the women and children it supported in 2020 experienced abuse involving technology. Some organizations even cite figures between 75% and 100%. Dr. Leonie Tanczer, a lecturer in international security and emerging technologies at University College London, warned that some women are being detected at domestic violence refuges and shelters through remaining logged into their Netflix account.
Government Response and Recommendations
The MPs acknowledged that there is no “silver bullet” for dealing with tech abuse but urged the government to take more action. They recommended improving the criminal justice response, raising public awareness, and bringing together industry representatives to mitigate risks through product design.
The committee criticized the current criminal justice response to tech abuse as “lacking” and called for more support for survivors. This includes providing specialist services for those who have experienced tech abuse and rolling out training to police forces.
Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Perspective
Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, emphasized the need for tech companies to take steps to prevent harm rather than placing the burden on victims and survivors. She called for more police training on how perpetrators use technology and investment in specialist domestic abuse services focused on supporting victims of tech abuse.
Government’s Commitment to Tackling Domestic Abuse
A government spokesperson stated that domestic abuse is a despicable crime and that the government is determined to tackle it. They highlighted the cross-government tackling domestic abuse plan published in March 2022 and the investment of over £230m to prevent offending, support victims, and pursue perpetrators. The government will introduce world-leading rules to bolster cybersecurity standards across devices and the Online Safety Bill will become law in a matter of months, making the UK the safest place in the world to be online.