Rozic, Bailey Urge Governor Cuomo to Sign Legislation Protecting Domestic Violence Survivors from Smart Home Technology Abuses

New York, NY – Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Queens) and Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) are urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to honor October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month by signing their pending legislation (A10039/S7926) into law. The legislation would protect domestic violence survivors by including smart home technology in protective orders to prohibit an abuser or harasser from controlling smart devices in a survivors’ home, vehicle or property. The bill passed both the Assembly and Senate in July with bipartisan support and now awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature. 

Internet-connected smart devices that can be controlled from an app, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi are often used as tools for harassment, abuse and control. They include security systems that can lock or unlock doors and windows, cameras, thermostats, sprinklers, voice-activated assistants and speakers, lights and more. Current protective orders do not protect against abusers who control accounts for smart devices, providing a unique way of harassing their victim.

“New York needs to get smarter about protecting domestic violence survivors. No one should fall victim to technology intended to protect them merely because antiquated laws fail to recognize the advances of modern technology,” said Assemblywoman Rozic. “I urge Governor Cuomo to sign this legislation into law and stop this modern form of abuse.”

Senator Bailey said: “Technology has been rapidly evolving but the law has not evolved with it. With the development of smart devices, it has allowed abusers to continue harassing domestic violence survivors through internet applications. Earlier this year, Assemblywoman Rozic and I passed legislation that would prohibit harassment through smart devices. I would like to thank Assemblywoman Rozic for championing this bill in the Assembly, and I urge Governor Cuomo to sign this piece of legislation that is so crucial for the protection and health of domestic violence survivors.” 

Meredith Lee Price, Senior Supervising Attorney, Safe Horizon’s Domestic Violence Law Project: “By giving survivors a remedy for tech abuse, this legislation champions the safety of those impacted by domestic violence. Safe Horizon is committed to rectifying the injustices suffered by survivors. We applaud the passage of this law and the efforts of the bill’s sponsors, and we urge the Governor to sign it into law without further delay.”

Dorchen Leidholdt, Director of Sanctuary for Families’ Legal Center said, “While smartphones and speakers have, in many ways, made our lives easier, their accessibility and the concentration of information and control within these devices has proven extremely dangerous for survivors of domestic violence. In July, we celebrated the passage of Assemblywoman Rozic and Senator Bailey’s legislation which closes a loophole in our family offense laws by allowing for restraining orders that prohibit an abusive or harassing partner from controlling “smart” devices in a survivor’s home, vehicle or property. With incidents of tech-facilitated abuse increasing, particularly during this pandemic, we now urge Governor Cuomo to move quickly and sign this important bill into law.”

Jeehae Fischer, Executive Director of Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC) said: “Today, in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we urge Governor Cuomo to sign A10039/S7926 into law and ensure the full protection of victims/survivors in acknowledgement of the changing trends in how smart technology is used to perpetrate abuse. The passage of this law will provide real protections and will support survivors and their children on a path towards a life of health, dignity, and free from violence.”

Shoshannah D. Frydman, Executive Director of Shalom Task Force said: “Thank you Assembly Member Rozic and Senator Bailey for your leadership – this is an important step in protecting victims and recognizing the role of technology as a way that people abuse and harm others. As an agency that provides direct legal services to victims of domestic violence, we welcome this addition and urge the Governor to sign the bill so this law can further protect those at great risk.”

More recently, this technology has become more and more prevalent in New York homes. It is estimated that the number of homes with some smart technology is growing 31 percent a year, according to McKinsey & Company. 

Last year, Rozic authored a law that allows domestic violence survivors who receive a permanent order of protection to be exempt from bills and fees accrued when a person prematurely ends a multi-year contract with a phone, cable or satellite company. 

October has been recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month since 1981. The month serves to bring awareness and highlight the prevalence of domestic violence in New York and across the country.