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Swain, Downey & Mosquera Bill to Expand Cyber-Harassment Laws to Include Use of Smart Technology Clears Committee

(TRENTON) – An alarming trend where an abuser uses smart technology as a means to harass another person has inspired legislation, sponsored by Assembly members Lisa Swain, Joann Downey and Gabriela Mosquera, that would expand New Jersey cyber-harassment law to include the use of such gadgets and devices to harass, intimidate and stalk an individual.

The measure cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday.

“In our hyper-connected world, technology abuse is a rapidly growing problem,” said Swain (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Smart technology devices can control everything from the lights in our homes to the locks on our doors. Offenders are using this technology against others as a way to harass and threaten. Expanding our laws to cover this new technology aims to protect more people who find themselves in these situations.”

The bill (A-4448) would expand the crime of cyber-harassment to include tampering or interfering with smart technology for the purpose of harassing another person. Under the bill, cyber-harassment would be a crime of the fourth degree if, with the purpose to harass another and in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm, a person tampers or interferes with, any software, computer, cell phone or any other electronic device.

Cyber-harassment is also a base offense for domestic violence under current law. This measure would also cover the misuse of Internet connected locks, thermostats, lights, speakers and cameras used to harass another person which we often see in domestic abuse situations.

“Smart technology, in many ways, has made living more convenient and secure for all who have it in their homes. However, abusers are turning smart technology gadgets into tools to hurt others,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “When it is used against a person in the form of harassment and intimidation, it should be considered a crime.”

“There are countless ways a domestic violence offender asserts control and torments their victim. Now, with technological advancement, many are using digital tools to psychologically intimidate, harass and stalk,” said Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Many women have come forward to tell their stories of abuse. We know now that abuse and intimidation can take on many forms, including this one.”

The bill defines, an “electronic device” to include but is not limited to, a smart home device or system, home security system, computer, digital camera, wireless or portable equipment, entertainment systems or any other device that is capable of transmitting, receiving, or recording messages, images, sounds, data, or other information by electronic means.

The measure will now head to the Assembly Speaker for further review.