Rozic, Bailey Announce Passage of Legislation to Protect Domestic Violence Survivors from Smart Home Technology Abuses

July 22, 2020

Albany, NY – Today, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Queens) and Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) announced the passage of legislation (A10039/S7926) that would protect domestic violence survivors by allowing for restraining orders that prohibit an abuser or harasser from controlling “smart” devices in a domestic abuse survivors’ home, vehicle or property. Internet-connected smart devices, like thermostats or doorbells that can be controlled from an app, are often used as tools for harassment, abuse and control. The bill passed both the Assembly and Senate with bipartisan support and now awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature.

“New York needs to get smarter about protecting domestic violence survivors,” said Assemblywoman Rozic. “No one should fall victim to technology intended to protect them merely because antiquated laws fail to recognize the advances of modern technology. This new legislation would allow for all New Yorkers to seek restraining orders that take into account smart technology and stop this modern form of abuse.”

Senator Bailey said: “In this day and age, we have access to smart technology that can often make our lives easier. Although these devices can benefit many, the emergence of such technology also has created a de facto loophole in current law as related to orders of protections and victims of domestic violence. As we rely more on technology in our lives, victims of domestic violence should not be subjected to having their abusers having access and control over their technology. Survivors of domestic violence can now rest assured that they will be protected by the law from an emerging and often unseen danger- technological abuse. This bill addresses and closes this loophole. I would like to thank Assemblywoman Nily Rozic for championing this bill in the Assembly, and our leaders Andrea Stewart Cousins and Carl Heastie for ensuring the passage of this bill.”

“Safe Horizon’s utmost concern is the safety of domestic violence survivors. Recognizing the dangers of smart tech abuse, this legislation puts survivors and their safety concerns first, and makes their voices heard in their plight to seek justice,” said Michael Polenberg, Safe Horizon VP of Government Affairs.

Dorchen Leidholdt, Director of Sanctuary for Families’ Center for Battered Women's Legal Services said: “Sanctuary for Families is profoundly grateful to Assemblywoman Rozic and Senator Bailey, and the New York State Legislature for bringing our protective order law into the Digital Age by amending our family offense laws so that orders of protection prohibit abusers from controlling their victims’ “smart” devices. We have seen how such tactics harm victims by invading their privacy, infringing on their ownership rights, and terrorizing them.”

Jeehae Fischer, Executive Director of Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC) said: “KAFSC is grateful for Assemblywoman Nily Rozic's work in the introduction of this bill and the New York State Assembly in working to pass this important legislation ensuring survivors of domestic/intimate partner violence have the protections they need to guarantee their safety and freedom from cyber-stalking, harassment, and other forms of technology abuse. KAFSC thanks New York State Senator Jamaal Bailey for his sponsorship of this bill which will continue to empower survivors and their children on their path towards a life of health, dignity, and free from violence. I urge Governor Cuomo to recognize the changing trends in how smart technology is used to perpetrate abuse and ensure the full protection of victim-survivors by signing this bill into law.”

Shoshannah D. Frydman, Executive Director of Shalom Task Force said: “This bill is an important step in helping protect victims. It will help ensure that remotely controlling devices are covered under the law by expanding prohibited behaviors in an order of protection. Thank you Assemblymember Rozic and Senator Bailey for your leadership – and helping create more safety for victims and recognizing the role of technology as a way that people abuse and harm others. As an agency that provides direct legal services to victims of domestic violence, we welcome this addition and urge the Governor to sign the bill so this law can further protect those at great risk.”

Smart devices are interactive, electronic devices that connect to other devices through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, etc. These devices include security systems that can lock or unlock doors and windows, cameras, thermostats, sprinklers, voice-activated assistants and speakers, lights and more. These devices can often be used by domestic abusers as tools for surveillance, harassment, and stalking.

This legislation would expand the behaviors that can be controlled by a court-issued domestic violence protective order to explicitly include remote control of connected devices in the home, vehicle, or property of the victims. Protective orders currently do not protect against those who control accounts for smart devices, providing a unique way of harassing victims through smartphone apps connected to the internet-enabled devices.

More recently, this technology has become more and more prevalent in New York homes. It is estimated that the number of homes with some smart technology is growing 31 percent a year, according to McKinsey & Company.

Last year, Rozic authored a law that allows domestic violence survivors who receive a permanent order of protection to be exempt from bills and fees accrued when a person prematurely ends a multi-year contract with a phone, cable or satellite company.