IWD2022: Privacy as Empowerment to Escape Intimate Partner Abuse
To mark International Women's Day 2022's theme of "Break the Bias," this week our office will provide tips and focus on privacy and technology concerns that affect women.
Individuals who escape "Intimate Partner Abuse," can come from any culture, education, wealth, or gender status - and likewise, so can the perpetrators. A study by Matthews, et al. highlighted in Stories from Survivors: Privacy & Security Practices when Coping with Intimate Partner Abuse (IPA), about 30% of women worldwide have been in a relationship that included physical or sexual abuse by an intimate partner. In this blog, we will focus on the privacy issues surrounding women as the IPA survivor who, after years of abuse, may look to distance herself from her abuser.
These days, just as technology touches all parts of life, it is also used in each of the phases of IPA: “control,” “escape,” and “life apart.”
An abuser may use technology to exert control with a range of tactics. They may limit the survivor’s access to devices or monitor the survivor’s devices using shared, pre-saved passwords or by installing spyware programmes. Abusers may also harass or try to control through "doxing." Doxing is the term for when an individual maliciously search for and publish private or identifying information about another individual on the internet. Because their use of technology and electronic accounts are controlled in this way, the survivor may experience social isolation and a range of financial and psychological challenges.
During the escape phase, the survivor may wish to hide any evidence of her escape that is online, such as conversations about housing, job applications, or messages to family members and friends about plans to leave the situation.
Finally, in the life apart phase, the survivor may look to block the abuser online, change phone numbers, limit social engagement, and avoid sharing location data.
Survivors may face privacy challenges when escaping an abusive environment, such as:
Shared social media profiles with the abuser;
Difficulty managing privacy and security while under stress;
Limited knowledge of privacy and security controls;
Managing children and shared friend social media engagement that shares information, such as location data or photos with evidence of the location;
Deciding which abusive messages should be kept as evidence and what can be deleted; and
Shared custody challenges.
But, women and survivers can use privacy awareness as a form of empowerment through these actions:
Make a routine to set (and check) privacy and security controls to restrict unnecessary use of personal information.
Set controls for your children’s privacy on apps and devices.
Secure all devices with a password and be sure to lock the screen when leaving it unattended.
Beware of automation - ask if a human being can please review your information to make a decision.
Avoid location data on photos and social media.
Look for courses to learn more about data privacy and security.
Contact our office to discuss further.
Organisations must be careful not to contribute to intimate partner abuse. If an organisation has personal information, they should ensure they are only sharing that information with the individual, unless agreed otherwise. Privacy rights keep a survivor in control of her own sharing.
For more information navigating privacy challenges for vulnerable individuals, contact PrivCom for support. Through advice and guidance, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Bermuda assists individuals with understanding privacy rights and registering complaints. We offer practical guidance for organisations with data protection, privacy, and security best practices, and creative solutions for unique privacy challenges.
To reach out to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, please visit our Contact Us page.
Rights and responsibilities relating to data privacy are set out in the Personal Information Protection Act 2016 (PIPA). Bermuda's PIPA received Royal Assent on 27 July 2016. Sections relating to the appointment of the Privacy Commissioner were enacted on 2 December 2016, including the creation of the Office as well as those duties and powers relevant to its operation in the period leading up to the implementation of the whole Act. The Commissioner works to facilitate the advancement of consequential amendments to other Acts in order to harmonise them with PIPA.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Bermuda (PrivCom) is an independent supervisory authority established in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Act 2016 (PIPA).
The mandate of the Privacy Commissioner is to regulate the use of personal information by organisations in a manner which recognizes both the need to protect the rights of individuals in relation to their personal information and the need for organisations to use personal information for legitimate purposes, among other duties.
The Privacy Commissioner's powers and responsibilities include monitoring the processing of personal information by both private- and public-sector organisations, investigating compliance with PIPA, issue guidance and recommendations, liaise with other enforcement agencies, and advise on policies and legislation that affect privacy. PrivCom also works to raise awareness and educate the public about privacy risks, and to protect people’s rights and freedoms when their personal data is used. The general powers of the Privacy Commissioner are outlined in Article 29 of PIPA.
Alexander White (Privacy Commissioner) was appointed by Excellency the Governor, after consultation with the Premier and Opposition Leader, to take office on 20 January 2020.
Privacy is the right of an individual to be left alone and in control of information about oneself. In addition to the protections in PIPA, the right to privacy or private life is enshrined in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 12) and the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 8).
"Personal information" or data is a defined term in PIPA that means any information about an identified or identifiable individual. Examples include names, dates of birth, photographs, video footage, email addresses and telephone numbers. "Sensitive personal information" is a defined term in PIPA that includes information relating to such aspects as place of origin, race, colour, sex, sexual life, health, disabilities, religious beliefs, and biometric and genetic information. (Note: This is not a complete list.)
"Use" of personal information is a defined term in PIPA that means "carrying out any operation on personal information, including collecting, obtaining, recording, holding, storing, organising, adapting, altering, retrieving, transferring, consulting, disclosing, disseminating or otherwise making available, combining, blocking, erasing or destroying it."
About International Women's Day: Marked annually on March 8th, International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The campaign theme for International Women's Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn't enough. Action is needed to level the playing field.