IBM outlines design principles to curb technology being used for domestic abuse

"There could be 125 billion internet-connected devices by 2030. As these devices become more prevalent, abusers will have more tools to manipulate their victims," says IBM.

IBM outlined a series of design principals that technologists need to consider to curb the use of technology for domestic abuse.

Big Blue's Policy Lab issued the design principles as a way to help curb domestic abuse, which has spiked amid COVID-19 lockdown orders. One in 3 women worldwide have experienced intimate partner violence, according to the World Health Organization.

Among the design principles:

  • Promote diversity so designers can consider all potential users of technology not just the assumed user. This principal means shedding the idea that technology can only be used for good.
  • Guarantees of privacy and choice so users can ensure data isn't being shared and are informed about privacy settings.
  • Combating gaslighting with tools to ensure there is a digital record of evidence and abusers can't manipulate victims into doubting memories.
  • Strengthen security and data so users have joint control and collect and share only necessary information.
  • Make technology more intuitive so victims can easily navigate products.

Examples of technologies that can be misused are connected doorbells to keep victims in and notify an abuser when an attempt is made to leave. Credit card apps can also monitor spending of a victim for control instead of combating fraud.

IBM said in a policy brief:

There could be 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 so that abusers cannot use these tools to harm victims. 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.