You think you're going crazy. Your lock no longer opens for you or it opens and stays open. The temperature plummets to freezing or rises to sweltering temperature. Music starts randomly blasting at all hours, or bizarre music is played. The TV starts playing disgusting or annoying content.
These are all ways that connected thermostats, audio, locks, and cameras, remotely operated by smartphone apps are being used to domestically abuse and gaslight victims. Gaslighting is described by wikipedia as:
"Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target's belief.The NYTimes reports, in an article, Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse:
Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play Gas Light and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations."
"The people who called into the help hotlines and domestic violence shelters said they felt as if they were going crazy.
One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse help line that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.
Their stories are part of a new pattern of behavior in domestic abuse cases tied to the rise of smart home technology."
These are huge new market areas. Jeff Bezos's Amazon just recently bought one of these, Ring, for a billion dollars. But it now seems that the way they are used will lead to abuse of some people-- people who were already victims of abuse.
The NYTimes article describes how homeless shelters and attorneys are now seeing more and more victims of these digital abuses, that usually one person in a relationship sets up the technology and the passwords and related Apps. If the relationship goes sour, that information becomes a form of power over the other person that is used against them to harass and inflict stress and suffering. The NYTimes article doesn't mention gaslighting, but this seems to be a clear new way to literally drive people crazy or make them feel that their lives are out of control.
This is such a new phenomenon that it is not usually addressed when people go to court to get restraining orders. Attorneys are just beginning to learn that they must include orders for partners to give up or release all passwords and controls for these devices.
Researching this article, I called into a hotline I discovered when searching for the terms "gaslighting" and "internet of things." After a wait, because the hotline phones were overloaded, I spoke to a woman who assured me that this new digital abuse is a big problem. People use computers, cameras and more to exert power over victims-- and that's what it's all about exerting power and making the victim feel powerless and out of control.
Imagine a victim who has an Amazon Ring door camera. If it is being controlled by an ex-spouse or boyfriend, it will reveal to him or her whoever comes to the door. Have a new boyfriend or girlfriend? Ring will let the abuser know... unless the password is changed or the device is removed.
How about keystroke tracking on a computer, or remote monitoring of the computer. So much is possible to be used to play mind games with a target victim.
The idea of the 'smart home' has become a huge, explosive market. There's no turning back on it. The internet of things (IOT) will soon have trillions of connections to devices in our world. Thats a lot of technology that could be used for abuse.
The above video shows a smart door entry system ripe for abuse. And it raves about an app for monitoring children's phones. But that same app could be put on a spouses phone so the abusive partner can literally eavesdrop without the partner knowing.
The problem is, narcissists and psychopaths-- the people who engage in gaslighting-- are often very smart. They're going to figure out ways to use these new technologies to inflict, discomfort, domination and control opon their victims. All the more reason we as a culture must develop ways to flag and identify narcissists and psychopaths so their abuses and depredations can be prevented.