Domestic violence through family phone plans: how lawmakers are stepping up to help tech abuse survivors

The Safe Connections Act is a bipartisan measure aimed at ending abuse through family phone plans.
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 7:48 AM MDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - “Digital devices in particular can be very powerful tools that can be manipulated by people to do good, but also to do harm.” Dr. Thomas Kadri said about tech abuse.

Tech abuse includes GPS stalking, password theft, or hacking photo libraries– crimes involving technology committed by family or a partner.

“This is a form of abuse that is rising,” Kadri said.

Kadri, a law professor at the University of Georgia, works with domestic violence survivors through the Clinic to End Tech Abuse.

He recently testified before Congress, explaining the challenges some people in abusive relationships have with family phone plans.

It can be difficult for someone to opt out of a family phone plan when their abuser is the account holder. The survivor may have to change their phone number, at a time when they need to be able to connect with loved ones for help.

Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) is a co-sponsor of the Safe Connections Act. The bill would require wireless carriers to separate the phone lines of a person and their alleged abuser within two days of receiving documentation of the alleged abuse. The cell companies would also have to advertise this option.

“This is one of the issues that holds people back,” Kuster said. “And we want to make sure that they can get to a place of safety.”

We asked CTIA-The Wireless Association if they support the bill. In a statement, they told the Washington News Bureau:

“The wireless industry supports the Safe Connections Act and applauds the work done by Senator Schatz, Senator Fischer, Representative Kuster, Representative Walberg and Representative Eshoo on this important piece of legislation. We will continue to collaborate with these legislators to ensure that we meet our shared goal of protecting survivors of domestic violence and get the bill enacted into law.”

Kelly Cole, SVP of Government Affairs, CTIA

The bill has bipartisan support, and already passed in the Senate. Members of Congress expect to see it become law later this summer.

Multimedia journalist Natalie Grim contributed to this report.

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