Abusive technology

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MSNBC has a fairly disturbing article about how abusive spouses, *-friends, etc. are using tracking technology (GPS, spyware, etc.) to keep tabs on their victims:
Leah lived for seven years with an abusive man. The bruises, the bleeding and the isolation were only part of his strategy to control her, she says. He turned technology on her, too. He installed spyware on her computer, read her e-mail, tracked her cell phone calls, spied on the Web sites she visited, even attached a GPS locator device to her car.

One day, after she visited her college Web site, he accused her of trying to contact a former boyfriend. The punishment was severe.

"He beat me all weekend after that," she said.

There's nothing new about abusive spouses using technology to terrorize, said Cindy Southworth, technology director at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. What is new is that now nearly all abusers use high-tech spying tools to try to extend their domination, she said.

I'm a bit skeptical of the "nearly all" claim (though without any evidence against it) but it's certainly very straightforward to do any of this stuff. This also seems like a case where the attacker has an enormous advantage. Just to take the GPS case, a GPS unit can be stuffed into a unit the size of a large watch. It's pretty easy to hide something like that in a car. It's true that GPS has trouble getting a fix without clear access to the sky, but you don't need it to work all the time to get a pretty good idea of where someone has been.

On the other hand, one could imagine a victim of abuse using this kind of communications technology in a positive way: microphones and cameras are now incredibly small so gathering evidence of abuse has gotten a lot easier. You can also get a cheap prepaid cell phone which your abuser doesn't know about and use it to call for help. You could even put a GPS in your abuser's car so you know when you had time to get away. Hard to know where the tradeoffs are here.

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microphones and cameras are now incredibly small so gathering evidence of abuse has gotten a lot easier. You can also get a cheap prepaid cell phone which your abuser doesn't know about and use it to call for help.
The saddest thing about partner abuse is that the abused very often does not want to call for help nor to gather evidence. It's very common for the victim to refuse to have the abuser arrested, or to refuse to testify in cases where arrest is mandatory.

Sigh....

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