Domestic and Family Violence

I congratulate and thank the member for Dunkley for this particular motion.

I want to focus on the issue of technology in this space, that the member also covered in the motion. Cyberstalking by husbands, partners and exs—it those secretly watching and perhaps listening, all from a distance. Cyberstalking is now, unfortunately, a standard part of domestic abuse. It is about power, it is about domination and it is about control.

Spyware is software that is downloaded onto a device simply by opening an email with some embedded spyware in it from someone you do not know. You can download that particular spyware. It can be done by a parent downloading a spyware app onto a child or adult’s device, activating it and then deleting visible traces. There can be genuine reasons—those could be the safety of a child—or they can be to track a mother, a child or a family. Spyware uses misleading labels and it does not actually take up much data—you will not notice it. It can be hidden in mobile apps. Someone can activate the camera on your phone or the microphone on your device remotely.

There are spyware companies and websites that offer a service that takes 30 seconds to track any mobile phone anywhere in the world using software that runs on Android, iPhone or Windows operating systems. The service offers the option, and tells you, that the owner of the phone will not notice that they are being tracked. The perpetrator simply monitors the person from the website of the spyware company. There is also the key logger function that records everything the victim types into the phone—so bank account details and other information are also visible on the spyware site. They can eavesdrop on conversations, and key loggers can be installed, as I said, with what looks like an innocuous email. You have geotagging and location services where GPS coordinates are embedded in a photo. Through that, a perpetrator can watch, track and attack.

The amount of threat that is involved in this is extraordinary. We have seen young people attacked through this process. Women’s refuges, or those who simply leave a violent or abusive relationship, should immediately deal with their devices—the devices that have tracking systems. Shut off GPS and wi-fi, stay away from social media —Twitter, Facebook, Instagram; whatever—and remember that the perpetrator will be monitoring the sites of your family and friends to see you wherever you are, because you might pop up; they might take photos of you. So please make sure that children do the same. Sometimes the abusive partner, the perpetrator, can give a child an iPhone as a gift during their parents’ separation with the sole intent of tracking the family and the mother. Often the children are told to keep this a secret: ‘This is between you and me, because you know how much I love you, and I want to be able to talk to you. Or you can tell me when to send a text message when it’s okay for us to talk. Or, even better, send me photos.’ Then, of course, if you have location services or geotagging turned on, they can look through those photos, follow you, monitor you and have access to track the family.

The government has done a lot of work with the e-safety commissioner, and there is much more ahead to be done. I think everybody needs to know a lot more about their personal devices. When you go and buy any device you need to know the security strengths and weaknesses, and it is incumbent upon all of us to know exactly what our devices can and cannot do and what others can do to our devices. We are seeing more and more technology enabled crime. As far as young people are concerned, when it is someone in their family that they love who has given them this particular device and asked them to stay in touch, they are most likely to keep that a secret. I know it is an issue in women’s refuges. In my work to help educate people in the community and in schools, it is one of the issues that I have raised. I also know that local police are doing the same with refuges.

When someone is in an abusive relationship, this is the first thing they need to deal with. It is just a fact of life. It can be the last thing they think of in a very emotional and stressful situation, but I would encourage everybody who is in this abusive situation: they really must do this immediately. It is the first thing they can do to protect themselves and their families, and I commend the member for Dunkley for a very important private member’s motion in the chamber today.