By Sarah Wray, Editor, Cities Today
IBM has published five key design principles to help technologists prevent their products being used for coercive control. The guidelines are also relevant to city leaders who are increasingly involved in the procurement, design and deployment of tech-enabled services for citizens.
One in three women worldwide has experienced intimate partner violence, according to the World Health Organization, and IBM’s Policy Lab brief follows reports that domestic violence has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts warn that technology-facilitated domestic abuse is on the rise. A recent UK news investigation found a 1,800 percent increase in alleged cyberstalking offences between 2014 and 2018. An Australian survey of domestic abuse support workers found that 98 percent had clients who had experienced technology-facilitated abuse. Earlier this year, Refuge, which runs the UK’s domestic abuse helpline, reported that nearly three-quarters of the people seeking their help last year had faced abuse via technology.
Such abuse can also occur between carers and the vulnerable, elderly or disabled, within institutions and in the workplace.
IBM estimates there will be up to 125 billion internet-connected devices by 2030. “As these devices become more prevalent, abusers will have more tools to manipulate their victims. It is critical that we safeguard new technology with strong anti-abuse protections by default so that abusers cannot use these tools to harm victims,” a statement said. “Making technology resistant to coercive control ensures that others cannot exploit inventions, tarnish intentions, or dim the light of technological achievement. Most importantly, it is a key step towards making the tech world safer for all of us.”
IBM is proposing five key design principles:
- Promoting diversity to broaden the understanding of how tools could be used for both positive and negative purposes.
- Guaranteeing privacy and choice about data-sharing, including making settings simple to understand and easy to configure.
- Combating gaslighting by ensuring technology has a digital audit trail which can’t be tampered with, to prevent victims being manipulated to doubt their memory.
- Strengthening security and data by ensuring products collect and share only necessary data and that they have joint user controls so individual family members, for example, can subscribe and unsubscribe.
- Making technology intuitive for everyone to reduce the risk of abusers dominating with greater technical confidence.
Examples of technologies that could potentially be exploited include doorbell apps being used to monitor and entrap victims. Meanwhile, credit card apps that provide purchase notifications were developed to help combat fraud but could support controlling behaviour and monitoring.
With municipal digital services on the rise too, Lesley Nuttall, author of the IBM Policy Lab’s Five Technology Design Principles to Combat Domestic Abuse, told Cities Today: “Cities can ensure that tech designed for their citizens is equitable by adopting all of the protections we lay out in this report. They can also assess existing tech touchpoints they have with citizens — like when their data is being accessed or shared — to check for necessary safeguards, ensure only necessary data is being collected and stored, regularly allow citizens to make informed decisions about their privacy settings, and ensure the privacy language used is clear and accessible.About this Content