Global Violence Against Women

Australian Woman’s Stalker Used an App to Track Her Phone and Control Her Car

An Australian woman’s ex-boyfriend used multiple apps to stalk her, including an app that controlled the functions of her car.

The 38-year old man pleaded guilty on charges of stalking his ex-girlfriend, to whom he dated for six months. After police searched his home, they found a notebook tracking his ex-girlfriend’s information, including places she frequently went, and a list of the costs of weapons.

The woman realized she was being stalked when she lost her phone and went online to track it. She found emails that contained proof her ex-boyfriend was compiling information on her whereabouts, such as the location of her car and her phone. She reported, “I was in shock and fear for my life when I realized he was stalking me and had control of my car.”

The man had shown patterns of stalking before. The woman reported that at one point, he had snuck into her room at night and stood at the foot of her bed. When she awoke, he said to her, “You’re lucky it’s just me and not a robber or a bad person to do you harm.” She told the court, he stood there for what “seemed like an eternity.”

In the time that the two dated, the ex-boyfriend helped the woman purchase a new car, allowing him access to the car’s identification number. He then downloaded Land Rover’s “In-Control” app that can start, stop, and track the location of her car. Additionally, he downloaded software to his phone that allowed him to track her cell phone for a monthly fee.

The woman said, “I am still trying to come to terms with the scope of violation and trauma I have experienced.”

The case has opened a larger conversation about cybersecurity and domestic abuse. Karen Levy, a professor of sociology at Cornell University, wrote, “Many forms of digital abuse require little to no sophistication and are carried out using everyday devices and services. But at the same time, digital intimate partner abuse is incredibly hard to fight, because the relationship between abuser and victim is socially complex. Abusers have different kinds of access to and knowledge about their victims than the privacy threats we often think about.”

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, more than 50% of domestic violence victim service providers reported that offenders use cellphone apps to stalk their victims. Erica Olsen, the director of Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, said, “What we know, what we’ve always known, is that abusers and perpetrators will use any tactic and tool they can access in order to perpetrate harassment and abuse. These are modern forms of old tactics and behaviors. The behavior is not new, but the technology is.”

Sources: Washington Post 11/6/19, Business Insider 11/7/19

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