New Resource: Legal System Toolkit on Understanding & Investigating Technology Misuse

NNEDV is pleased to announce the launch of our new Toolkit for Law Enforcement & Legal Professionals on Understanding & Investigating Technology Misuse. This toolkit was developed to meet the needs of law enforcement, attorneys, court personnel, community corrections, and other professionals to better serve survivors of technology-facilitated abuse. It provides thorough guides and resources on evidence collection for some of the most common technologies misused by abusers and perpetrators.

Agencies across the country have communicated barriers, such as a lack of funds, that often prevent them from sending staff to in-person trainings for multiple days. We have also heard requests for more comprehensive resources on issues of technology abuse and evidence. We hope this toolkit will provide professionals working within the criminal and civil legal systems with resources to help them respond to the emerging issues that survivors are identifying and struggling with and in doing so improve both safety planning and accountability.

Tech Abuse: Information from the Field

Survey Findings from the Conference on Crimes Against Women

 We are happy to announce the summary of our short survey Tech Abuse: Information from the Field: Survey Findings from the Conference on Crimes Against Women. This survey allowed the Safety Net team to gather information from the field to better guide the work that we do.

For more information on this survey and the findings check out Tech Abuse: Information from the Field: Survey Findings from the Conference on Crimes Against Women.


This survey was conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence and funded under the Technology, Abuse, and Safety Project awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice (2016-TA-AX-K069)

Tech Summit 2018 Recap

HIGHLIGHTS FROM TECH SUMMIT 2018

HIGHLIGHTS FROM TECH SUMMIT 2018

The month of July is always jam-packed for the Safety Net team. This past July, we hosted the 6th Annual Technology Summit in San Francisco, California. This year saw more participants, more sessions, and more ways to connect than ever before. We welcomed over 300 staff, victim service providers, law enforcement, trainers, and technology partners to engage, connect, and learn more about the intersections of technology misuse and intimate partner violence.

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s spectacular summit!

1.   “Technology isn’t the problem, abuse is!”- Our very own Erica Olsen, Director of the Safety Net project, opened the week with foundational principles. She centered the training with reminding participants that we need to hold perpetrators accountable, while also allowing for survivors to choose what is the best option for them during their tech safety planning process.

2.   “Technology is often misused, but technology can also empower survivors” - Malika Saada Saar, Google - Our 2018 tech summit speakers and presenters left us feeling empowered and energized to continue this work. We had representatives from Uber, Facebook, Google, law enforcement, and many other phenomenal presenters who not only shared their knowledge and expertise, but their own stories and ways they  work to end gender-based violence. We couldn’t have done this without them.

3.   “Technology can be used to reach those at the margins and provide them with a safe space”- This year we had sessions that really spoke to the intersections in which many survivors live. We offered sessions on technology and accessibility, working with immigrant survivors, and the impact of technology on LGBTQ survivors. These sessions were an added bonus to our agenda and provided new and innovative approaches for advocates to do this work. Likewise, we held our 3rd annual Women in Technology reception where technologists and advocates came together to discuss emerging tech and the use of technology in communities of color.

4.    “Lots of work, but lots of fun”- #TechSummit18 wasn’t just all work, we were able to have fun with our participants. From live polling, tech themed coloring pages, our daily prize drawings, and of course karaoke and trivia, this year we engaged with participants in ways we haven’t in the past. We were able to enjoy each other and really provide connections that will foster new friendships and networking relationships.

We thank all of the participants, speakers, sponsors, and you for making Tech Summit 2018 a huge success. Until July 2019.

Cambridge Analytica and Why Privacy Matters to Survivors

Recent news that the personal information of tens of millions of people was used by Cambridge Analytica “to create algorithms aimed at ‘breaking’ American democracy” as the New Yorker phrases it, has led to a call to #DeleteFacebook. For those unfamiliar with the story, our friends at AccessNow wrote a great summary.

This kind of invasion of privacy is not new, nor is it limited to this case. The old expression, “No free lunch,” applies to any service that we don’t pay for, whether it is social media or a discount card at the grocery store or entering a raffle to win a new car. The true cost is allowing those companies to access our personal information for their own profit.

Safety is the primary concern. For survivors who face threats of harm, who live daily in fear from the abusers, the security of personal information can be a life and death issue. For survivors fleeing an abuser, information about location, work, kids’ schools, and social connections can lead an abuser to the doorstep. For survivors living with abuse, information about friends, thoughts, feelings, opinions, and interests can be misused by an abuser to control, isolate, or humiliate.

For survivors, privacy is not an abstract issue, or a theoretical right to be debated on CSPAN. Privacy is essential to safety, to dignity, to independence. Yet, we live in a time when personal information = profit.

The Cambridge Analytica story surfaces the underlying reality that our personal information is not under our control. It feels like we are seldom asked for consent to share our personal data. When we are, it is in legalese, in tiny letters that we might have to scroll through to be able to check that box, and get on with using whatever website we’re trying to use. Even if we do take the time to read through those privacy terms, we know that data is routinely stolen, or accidentally published on the Internet, or used against us to affect access to loans, insurance, employment, and services.

We are social animals. We crave connection. Research shows that we suffer without it. Isolation is a classic tactic of abuse. But the price we too often pay for connection online is our privacy.

At times like these, we may think about deleting Facebook, going offline, or throwing away our phones. We may think that survivors should give up their tech at the door of our shelters, or that they have to go off the grid in order to be safe.

Digital exile is not the answer. Technology, and the Internet, is a public space where everyone, including survivors, should have the right, to share their voices, to make connections, and to access information without fear of their personal information being collected and used without their consent. April Glaser writes in Slate that, “[d]eleting Facebook is a privilege,” pointing to the huge number of people that rely on it to connect with friends, to learn about events, to promote a business, or, in parts of the world with limited Internet access, just to be online at all.

Survivors, just like every other consumer, should be given the opportunity to give truly informed consent. That consent must be based on clear, simple, meaningful, understandable privacy policies and practices – not just a check box that no one pays attention to.

A guide to the process of changing your Facebook settings to control apps’ access to your data is available from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Also check out our own guides to Online Privacy and Facebook Privacy and Safety.

Data Privacy Day: Honoring A Survivor’s Right To Safely Access Technology

person on computer

When a survivor reaches out to a domestic violence program for help, it’s often as a last resort and with much trepidation. Social connection, access to financial resources, and a safe home have often been systematically stripped away from them by their abuser. Smartphones, email, and social media accounts are often the last remnants of their connection to support, and can serve as an important lifeline when they’re in danger.

Yet we often hear from survivors that when they’ve reached out for help about the harassment, stalking, and abuse they’ve experienced through technology and social media, the only advice they get is to completely disconnect from technology and delete their accounts. But this places the blame in the wrong place. The technology isn’t the issue; the abuser’s behavior is. And worse yet, this response punishes the victim for the abuse they’ve suffered, forcing them to become more isolated because their only option is to disconnect. It also impacts their safety; if a survivor is in need of help but can no longer access their support systems, the risk of danger can increase dramatically.

This Data Privacy Day, we celebrate a survivor’s right to safely access technology, and encourage programs to proactively safety plan with survivors to help them feel empowered and safe with their technology use. We need to view safe access to technology, the internet and social media as a fundamental right of survivors. Technology is a necessity in our everyday lives, and removing it is not a feasible option. Instead, domestic violence programs can help survivors not only find temporary refuge, but also help them build a new skill that will empower them to stay connected, feel less isolated, and have communication tools that can help them in emergency situations.

The Safety Net Project develops tools and resources that help both survivors and victim service agencies become more informed about how to safely use technology, and about how abusers might misuse technology to stalk and harass. On Data Privacy Day, we encourage you to explore these tools listed below, and to reach out to us with any questions you may have about the safe use of technology.

  • The TechSafety App - This app was created for anyone who thinks they might be experiencing harassment or abuse through technology or who wants to learn more about how to increase their privacy and security while using technology.
  • Technology Safety & Privacy Toolkit For Survivors - Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking often need information on how to be safe while using technology. This toolkit provides safety tips, information, and privacy strategies to help survivors respond to potential technology misues and to increase their safety and privacy.
  • The App Safety Center - There’s an app for everything, right? An increasing number of apps for smartphones and tablets are attempting to address the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking. With so many apps, knowing which ones to use can be difficult. The App Safety Center will highlight some of these apps by providing information on what survivors and professionals need to know to use them safely.
  • Agency’s Use of Technology: Best Practices & Policies Toolkit - The way domestic violence, sexual assault, and other victim service agencies use technology can impact the security, privacy, and safety of the survivors who access their services. This toolkit contains recommended best practices, policy suggestions, and handouts on the use of common technologies. 

New Resource: Tech Safety App

We’re thrilled to announce the release of our Tech Safety App! The Tech Safety App is an educational mobile app that helps users identify how abusers can harass them by misusing technology and learn what steps they can take to enhance their technology safety and privacy.

This app takes advantage of the NNEDV Safety Net project’s more than 15 years of working on the intersection of technology abuse and violence against women, and who have provided expert advice, trainings, and consultation on this issue to thousands of survivors of abuse, victim service providers, and technology companies. This app is another way to get information into the hands of survivors.

The Tech Safety App walks users through understanding how a particular technology could be misused, what they can do about it, and offers safety tips on how to increase their safety and privacy. The app also includes a wide range of resources, including those on this site, the WomensLaw.org legal hotline, and other hotlines.

The Tech Safety App will be launched at a reception on Monday, July 25, 2016 from 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm at the Hilton Financial District during NNEDV Safety Net’s 4th Annual Technology Summit. At this Summit, nearly 250 victim advocates, attorneys, law enforcement professionals, victim service providers from across the United States and around the world will attend to learn about how technology is misused to harass and how providers can address these crimes.

Download the app today, and let us know what you think!

Technology Summit 2015 Agenda & Events

Tech Summit 2015 Welcome Image

We're so excited to welcome attendees to our 3rd Annual Technology Summit next week in San Francisco! If you're joining us, we can't wait to meet you! If you're not joining us, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to see what we're up to. Take a look at the program book to see what's going on.

This year, we have much to discuss in the world of technology, privacy, and survivor safety. 
Earlier this year, in Elonis v. the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Anthony Elonis, who posted threats (which he called rap lyrics) against his ex-wife on Facebook. Elonis had been convicted under the standard that a “reasonable person” would have viewed the posts as real threats. However, the Court said that something more is required, without specifying exactly what, so it is unclear how that decision will impact future cases involving online threats.

Despite our disappointment with that decision, the issue of sharing or distributing intimate images without consent (aka “revenge porn”) has seen a lot of movement. In fact, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Google have updated their policies to include banning non-consensual pornography on their sites. Currently, a federal bill addressing this issue is being discussed and debated.

For victim service programs, selecting effective technologies to support their services, using technology to reach survivors, and finding ways to hold offenders accountable for their crimes continue to be core topics. Privacy, security, safety, and survivor empowerment are part and parcel of those issues, making these very complex discussions.

We hope that by the end of the Summit, we will all leave with more tools and ideas as well as more questions and thoughts about what we can do to help survivors find safety and healing while working toward a world where violence against all people no longer exists.

If you're not able to join us, follow along on social media (#techsummit15 and #TS15QA)!

A Glimpse From the Field: How Abusers Are Misusing Technology

The Safety Net Project recently surveyed victim service providers on the misuse of technology by abusers. Of the programs surveyed, 97 percent reported that the survivors they are working with experience harassment, monitoring, and threats by abusers through the misuse of technology.

Abusers in intimate partner violence misuse technology in many ways: to stalk and monitor victims, to harass victims through the “anonymity” of the technology, and to impersonate victims through technology, such as creating false social media accounts. The survey found that 79 percent of programs reported that abusers monitor survivors’ social media accounts, 74 percent report that abusers check victims by text messages, and 71 percent report that abusers scrutinize survivors’ computer activities.

Using technology to facilitate harassment of the victim is a major tactic by abusers, according to the reporting programs. Abusers harassing survivors via text messaging was reported by 96 percent of programs, while 86 percent reported that abusers harass victims through social media.

Of the type of technology misused by offenders, social media, text messaging, and email were the top three. It is not unusual that these three technologies should be reported the most abused by offenders. Abusers seek to disrupt and interrupt survivors’ lives. Stalkers gather information and monitor victims’ activities based on where they are and what they are doing. According to Pew Research Internet Project, 74 percent of adults who are online use a social networking site of some kind and 81 percent of adult cell phone owners send and receive text messages.

In fact, nearly all (99%) the responding programs reported that Facebook is the most misused social media platform by abusers. This finding is not shocking. Facebook is a platform in which abusers and survivors both engage in. With over 1.2 billion monthly active users, Facebook is a key place for offenders to access information about victims or harass the victim by directly messaging the victim or the victim’s friends and family. An advocate wrote: “Facebook is the hardest for survivors to shut down or avoid because they use it to keep in contact with other friends and family.”       

Respondents to the survey also stated how difficult it is to “prove” that an abuser is behind the abuse. “Officers and state attorneys are saying that anyone could have posted those comments and pictures on Facebook, so proving in court that the abuser is doing it is very difficult,” noted one advocate.  Advocates and survivors find it frustrating when they are told that it is impossible to trace harassing text messages or emails back to the perpetrator.

”A Glimpse From the Field” was conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence and funded under a grant awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Click here for a copy of the report.