New research from the Government's Culture, Media and Sport Committee has found that users of smart devices - such as fitness trackers, home security systems and baby monitors - could be at risk from tech-enabled domestic abuse.
In a report released by the committee, it was found that the smart devices could be used as a form of spyware, allowing perpetrators of domestic abuse to to track the whereabouts of their victims and listen in to their conversations.
The report follows the launch of a petition by Grazia in partnership with domestic abuse charity Refugee, calling on big technology firms to make their products safe by design, with the responsibility being placed on them and not on victims. According to statistics from Refuge – the largest domestic abuse organisation in the UK – 59% of women and children who received support from their charity experience abuse involving technology in 2020.
As a result of the findings, the committee chair, Dame Caroline Dinenage, suggested that the government was responsible for protecting vulnerable individuals saying, ‘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.
‘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 Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, agreed that the manufacturers also had a key role to play when it came to the protection of their users, as Grazia has highlighted, stating, ‘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.’
The conclusions of the report are scary, but sadly unsurprising in the wake of the recent wave of individuals - including Love Island’s Montana Brown - who have come forward about being tracked by strangers using Apple’s AirTags.
A Government spokesperson said domestic abuse was a 'despicable crime' ministers were 'determined to tackle'.
They added: 'We will introduce world-leading rules next year to bolster cyber-security standards across devices, protecting individual privacy and security, and our Online Safety Bill will become law in a matter of months - making the UK the safest place in the world to be online.'