The New Futures Project

Report highlights growing threat to women of ‘cyber’ domestic violence

An increasing number of domestic abuse cases now involve perpetrators using ‘smart’ technology, according to a new report.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee launched its inquiry in May last year to consider both the potential benefits and harms of ‘connected technology’, such as smart speakers, virtual assistants and wearable fitness trackers.

The committee’s report published today, (Monday, August 7) said it has heard evidence of a rising number of instances of perpetrators monitoring victims’ movements and collecting recordings and images of them.

The report – Connect tech: smart or sinister? – calls on the Government, the criminal justice system and the tech industry to respond to the threat.

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, chair of the committee, said: “While the rising popularity of connected technology has brought undoubted benefits to everyday life, the flip side is the real risk some of these gadgets pose to privacy and personal safety online. 

“In particular, the surge in use of devices such as smart home security systems, baby monitors, cameras and smart speakers to monitor, harass, coerce and control victims of domestic abuse is truly chilling. 

“The Government must make it a priority to work with manufacturers to tackle this technology-facilitated abuse, which is only going to get worse in the future. 

“The police and criminal justice system must be better equipped to deal with it, while victims should be properly supported. 

“Connected devices also harvest a large amount of personal data and there are particular concerns where children are involved.

“The Government and Information Commissioner’s Office should make sure products used in schools and by young people at home have privacy settings that are intuitive for children and age-appropriate terms and conditions.

Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, said: “Perpetrators of domestic abuse will manipulate new technology such as smart home devices to further control, coerce, and abuse.

“Too often, victims and survivors are expected to keep themselves safe from tech abuse, rather than tech companies taking steps to prevent harm.

“While the Government has made good progress on some forms of tech abuse through the Online Safety Bill,  they must ensure tech companies address all the tools that perpetrators use, including smart home devices.

“I also want to see more police training on how perpetrators use these new forms of technology, and investment in specialist domestic abuse services that are focussed on supporting victims of tech abuse.”

New Futures – originally called Women’s Health In Prostitution – was set up in 1995 to support women involved in prostitution.  

However, it has evolved into a comprehensive welfare and counselling service for women and young people dealing with sexual abuse or exploitation, domestic violence, trafficking, poverty and debt, substance use or mental ill-health.

Currently, the project is supporting 283 women and a further 95 young people (male and female, aged 13 to 25).

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