Digital Violence—Keeping Victims and Potential Victims, Safe
Digital technologies play an increasingly prominent role in domestic violence, stalking, and surveillance by abusive partners and others known to the victim. Nicola Dell, Cornell Tech, Information Science, with collaborators Karen Levy, Information Science and Cornell Law School, and Thomas Ristenpart, Cornell Tech and Computer Science, are working on a foundational, multi-disciplinary research agenda that examines the role these technologies play in intimate partner violence. The researchers are investigating the development of new tools, techniques, and theories to combat technology-enabled abuse.
The project builds on prior work detailing the ways in which abusers exploit technology to monitor, harass, track, and control victims. This kind of abuse challenges common approaches to computer security. Although the attacks that abusers employ are often technically unsophisticated, the social and relational contexts in which attacks occur make them difficult to prevent.
Dell, Levy, and Ristenpart are weaving together several kinds of research activities: building measurement platforms for making sense of abuser communities that are found online; designing tools for detecting spyware or apps usable as spyware on victim devices; developing a theory of adversary-aware human computer interaction that will guide user interface design in the face of adversaries that have a victim's login credentials; analyzing the efficacy of general consumer privacy legislation for abuse contexts; and seeking out pragmatic law and policy recommendations. The research makes the safety of victims and potential victims paramount, which is facilitated by working closely with stakeholder organizations.