WHAT IS “IoT”?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices connected to each other and to a device or app that can control them. These devices may be connected through the Internet, Bluetooth, or other means. Unfortunately, these devices and systems can provide yet another, highly invasive way that technology can be misused to monitor, harass, threaten or harm women. At the same time, they can also offer potential tools women can use to strategically increase their safety.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Safety Net Project has developed a series of handouts describing the risks and potential benefits of the new wave of IoT devices.

Our homes are rapidly being filled with “smart” and “connected” devices that promise to increase convenience, improve energy savings and strengthen personal security. Home automation IoT allows remote control and surveillance through Internet-connected devices in the home.

Many health and medical devices are now connected to the Internet, offering to help you track information about your health, or even send that information to your doctor.

“Smart” and “connected” toys promise to entertain, increase safety, and connect us to our kids and pets while we’re away from home.

While driverless vehicles get all the headlines, newer cars often come off the lot already “connected,” allowing parents to monitor and control teen drivers and employers to monitor employee driving habits. In addition, small gadgets can be attached to a car to allow for remote monitoring, and in some cases remote control of some features. Read more.

STEPS TO INCREASE SAFETY & PRIVACY

Across the spectrum of new IoT devices, there are a few questions to consider.

  • Does that particular device need to be “smart” or “connected”?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
  • How secure is the device and the app that runs it?
  • Are there features that allow the user to individualize and increase privacy and security?

General steps to increase the privacy and safety of IoT devices include learning about the built-in security options of the device, turning it off when not in use, and changing the default passwords or other security settings.

If a woman suspects that a device is being misused, they can begin to document the incidents. Our Technology-Facilitated Violence Log is one way to document each occurrence.  These logs can be helpful in revealing patterns, determining next steps, and may potentially be useful in building a case if the woman chooses to involve the legal system.

Women might also try to access evidence through the device, or the app or website that controls it. They can also try to reach out to the manufacturer to try to regain control over a device or the account associated with it. With these devices and others, it is also important to take steps to increase network and WiFi security. For more information, see our handout on WiFi security.

 

©2019 BC Society of Transition Houses, Technology Safety Project.

Adapted from and in cooperation with the Safety Net Technology Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, United States