She woke up to her ex-boyfriend standing at the foot of her bed. At first he said nothing. He stood there, he later recused himself in a court, which “seemed like eternity.”
Then he said to her, humble and calm, “You’re lucky it’s just me and not a robber or a bad guy to hurt you.”
He didn’t know it then, he told the court, but that mid-evening break-in pushed him far away for the first time – he had been doing it in real-time for months, authorities said. The man, whom she has dated for six months, has been accused of arming her with simple technology and smartphone apps that allow her to remotely stop and start her car, control her car windows and constantly track her.
“I’m still trying to cope with the potential for breach and trauma,” he said.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has reported the crime in the Australian state of Tasmania. The ABC did not name the victim or the accused, but the lawsuit highlights a worrying trend that domestic violence advocates have warned for more than a decade: as surveillance and tracking technology becomes more advanced and ubiquitous, behind-the-scenes and close partner violence could become other forms. Fighting became more difficult.
“Technology doesn’t cause stockings,” said Toby Schulraff, a technology security expert at the National Network to End Domestic Violence in 2017. “However, in many areas of our lives the integration of technology has made it easier for stockholders. Create fear and do harm.”
In a case involving a 38-year-old man convicted in Hobart Magistrates’ Court in Australia, he used spyware to track a woman’s phone location, for which he paid a monthly fee, ABC reported. Although annoying, that method of surveillance is relatively common, according to a motherboard report in the “Stockwear Surveillance Market” which puts the number of victims in the thousands.
But the man also used an app that was integrated with the woman’s Land Rover. He helped her buy it when the two were together, which gave her access to vehicle registration information, allowing her to set up the app. The ABC app doesn’t detect, but works like Land Rover’s “Control” app, which allows car owners to remotely turn on their vehicles, adjust their temperature and track their locations.
A North American spokesman for Jaguar Land Rover said it had never heard of such a case in the United States, but said it was looking into Australian allegations.
According to a survey by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, more than 50 percent of hunting service providers report that criminals use cellphone apps to track or stock their victims. Forty-one percent of providers report that abusers use GPS tracking.
“The digital abuse of close partners is far more mundane and more complex than we thought,” wrote Karen Levy, a professor of sociology at Cornell, who wrote in Slate last year.
“Many types of digital abuse require little or no sophistication and are done using everyday devices and services,” he wrote. “But at the same time, fighting the abuse of digital intimate partners is incredibly difficult, because the relationship between abuser and victim is socially complex. Abusers have different access and knowledge about their victim than we often think of the privacy threat.”
Levy is one of many academics researching digital technology and the intersection of intimate partner violence, and he is the co-author of a research paper on how social media and technology have created “a stalker’s paradise.”
According to ABC, the recent change in local law means that a state Supreme Court is now hearing a stacking case, and the name of the offender could be entered in a register for up to 15 years as a result of the complaint.
After they searched the man’s home, police found a notebook filled with the woman’s personal information, a list of places he frequently visited, and a list of weapons and their expenses.
The Australian woman has told the court that she has worked on digital technology for the past 10 years, ABC reported. He did not know that he was so weak.
“As a professional working in the industry, I was moved to learn what the criminal did to my car,” he said. “As a victim it has caused such deep trauma that it is difficult to describe it properly.”
Washington Post 2019