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OPLIN 4Cast #601: The (very) dark side of smart home devices

Posted in 4cast, and Internet of Things

New technologies have always had pros and cons.  After all, technology of any sort is only a tool, and it is how it is used that often determines its value.  Smart home technology (such as thermostats, doorbells and smart speakers like Alexa) is an area of consumer tech that has really taken off: homes with smart devices already installed even sell faster in the U.S. However, there can be a negative aspect to smart homes: they can be used as tools for domestic abuse.

  • When a smart home becomes a trap [Big Think] “Obviously, a victim might at first feel she’s going crazy before realizing what’s going on. And given that this form of abuse occurs in the home — a person’s safest place — it’s especially terrifying. If there are cameras around the home, they can be used to spy on a victim as well.”
  • For victims of smart home abuse, there’s no easy out [Engadget] “On the surface, this seems like a relatively straightforward problem to solve: Just change your password or unplug the devices, right? Except the issue here is two-fold. Not only are the devices sometimes solely controlled by the abuser, but oftentimes making these changes will result in even worse abuse, especially if the couple is still living together. “
  • The internet of things has opened up a new frontier of domestic abuse [The Guardian] “The people who are particularly at risk are survivors of domestic abuse. A striking and timely investigation by the New York Times has revealed that abusers are employing networked home devices to control, harass and stalk their targets. The perpetrators not only spy on their ex-partners, but can cause havoc with bursts of music, sudden changes in lighting or temperature and other attempts at intimidation.”
  • Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse [The New York Times] “In more than 30 interviews with The New York Times, domestic abuse victims, their lawyers, shelter workers and emergency responders described how the technology was becoming an alarming new tool. Abusers — using apps on their smartphones, which are connected to the internet-enabled devices — would remotely control everyday objects in the home, sometimes to watch and listen, other times to scare or show power. Even after a partner had left the home, the devices often stayed and continued to be used to intimidate and confuse.”

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