Downey Bill Penalizing Tampering with Smart Technology Released From Assembly Committee

A bill introduced by Assemblywoman Joann Downey expanding penalties for cyber-harassment was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee this Monday.

As smart devices, including security systems, doorbells, and phones become more widespread in New Jersey households, criminals are finding it easier to hack or alter these devices to harass their owners. Bill A-4448, which is sponsored by Assemblywoman Downey, would expand the crime of cyber-harassment to penalize any person who tampers or interferes with smart technology.

“We’re seeing an alarming trend where offenders use these smart devices in order to harass others,” said Downey (D-Freehold).

“Domestic abusers especially are using Internet-connected locks, thermostats, speakers, and cameras to control and harass the targets of their abuse. As technology grows increasingly interconnected with our lives, it’s important to make sure that our justice system is keeping pace with any potential misuse.”

This bill 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 is 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. The bill defines, an “electronic device” includes 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.

It is the sponsor’s belief that expanding cyber-harassment to include smart technology for the purpose of harassing another person, addresses the alarming trend where an offender uses smart technology as a means to harass another person. Moreover, since cyber-harassment is a predicate offense for domestic violence under N.J.S.A.2C:25-19, this bill would encompass this new pattern of behavior which is being seen in some domestic abuse situations where Internet connected locks, thermostats, lights, speakers and cameras are used to harass another person.

The bill now proceeds to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for approval.

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