Lorena Gonzalez Announces Legislation to Protect Domestic Violence Survivors from Smart Home Technology Abuses

Thursday, January 23, 2020

AB 1987 Allows Restraining Order to Prohibit “Smart Tech” Control

SACRAMENTO – (Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020) – Today, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced Assembly Bill 1987 to allow for restraining orders that prohibit an abuser or harasser from controlling “smart” devices in a domestic abuse survivors’ home, vehicle or property.

“Survivors of domestic abuse have put a spotlight on internet-connected smart devices, like thermostats or doorbells you control from an app, used as tools for harassment, abuse and control.” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “Millions of homes have some type of smart technology. But if you can adjust your thermostat or check your surveillance cameras from your smartphone, so can a former partner. Assembly Bill 1987 will allow for all Californians, regardless of their immigration status, to seek restraining orders that take into account smart technology and stop this modern form of abuse.”

“Smart” devices are interactive, in-home electronic devices generally connected to other devices or networks through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, etc. They include security systems that can lock or unlock doors and windows, cameras, thermostats, sprinklers, voice-activated assistants and speakers, lights and more. This technology has become more and more prevalent in Californian’s homes. It’s estimated the number of homes with some smart technology is growing 31 percent a year. Smart devices are even beginning to be incorporated as standard in some new homes.

As these connected devices become widely available, so too does their use by domestic abusers as tools for surveillance and harassment. Protective orders do not protect against abusers who control accounts for smart devices, providing a unique way of harassing their victim through an app on their phone.

AB 1987 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 victim. The bill would also require the Judicial Council to update any relevant forms in order to implement this.

Additionally, AB 1987 would also declare legislative findings that the Domestic Violence Protection Act, like all of the Family Code, has always applied to Californians regardless of immigration status and continues to do so.

For questions on AB 1987 or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Sami Gallegos (209) 658-7617.