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Mayor's Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Expands Stalking Prevention Partnership With Cornell Tech and NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Students at Cornell Tech and NYU have developed ground breaking anti-stalking technology for cell phones following research conducted at New York City’s Family Justice Centers

NEW YORK, NY — Today, the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) announced the expansion of its partnership with Cornell Tech and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering to strengthen New York City’s supportive services for victims of stalking. The expansion includes the development of a diagnostic tool designed to identify applications on cell phones that can be used for cyberstalking. Cornell Tech is piloting the use of this groundbreaking tool with clients at New York City’s Family Justice Centers to conduct digital privacy checkups that include scanning for spyware or malware and having an informative discussion about privacy settings to educate clients on how to maximize safety when using technology.

ENDGBV initially partnered with Cornell Tech in 2016 on a research project titled, Digital Safety and Security in Intimate Partner Violence. Through the partnership, Cornell Tech researchers conducted interviews with Family Justice Center providers and clients to understand how technology can be used negatively as a tool of control in abusive relationships. The study also explored whether partners in abusive relationships had access to the client’s online and personal accounts, technology hardware, and client knowledge of mobile applications and the safe use of technology. Following the study, Cornell Tech created screening questions for staffers at the Family Justice Centers to use as part of the overall safety assessment that is done with clients when they come into the centers. Through the expansion of the partnership, clients can be referred to onsite Cornell Tech staff to have the privacy checkup performed on their device using the new technology.

The ENDGBV Healthy Relationship Training Academy (the Academy) is also assisting Cornell Tech with research they are conducting to assess how teens  use apps and other social media in order to understand teens’ behavior around digital privacy and disclosure and identify ways in which teens experience technology abuse and how they seek help. The research will be used to develop tools tailored to teens, parents, and educators that address privacy protection strategies, risk behavior, and resources that help teens navigate technologies safely.

“The City is committed to finding cutting-edge solutions to the growing problem of cyber-stalking,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “Through this key collaboration, ENDGBV, Cornell Tech, and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering are working together to ensure survivors of intimate partner violence feel safe not just in their homes and on the streets, but in the digital world in which we all spend so much time.”

“So many of our clients at the Family Justice Centers are simply unaware of the vulnerabilities that can lead to cyber stalking or stalking in general,” said Cecile Noel, Commissioner of ENDGBV. “That’s why our team thought it was extremely important to continuing this groundbreaking work with Cornell Tech. I’d like to thank them and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering for joining with us in our mission to create a safer New York for survivors and their families.”

“Cornell Tech is proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence and NYU Tandon School of Technology to advance this critical work to protect survivors. There are so many security and privacy risks online that can put survivors in danger, and not nearly enough awareness or resources for them. Through this collaborative study, we are working to ensure that survivors can get the technology help they need. Cornell Tech is committed to developing cutting-edge research and technology that will have a positive impact on New York communities, and this is a profound example of this important mission,” said Nicola Dell, assistant professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech and Thomas Ristenpart, associate professor at Cornell Tech, who co-lead the research team working on this important issue.

“I couldn’t be happier that ENDGBV is expanding this project to include a diagnostic tool for clients at New York City’s Family Justice Centers,” said Damon McCoy, professor of computer science and engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, who helped design the screening software. “I’m proud to have worked with Cornell Tech to develop this technology, especially since it helps victims of domestic abuse and stalking in such an immediate, tangible way.”

“This groundbreaking technology stands to become an empowering and invaluable resource for victims of stalking,” said Samir Saini, Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. “I thank Commissioner Noel and the teams at Cornell Tech and NYU Tandon School of Engineering for working together to expand this important program that helps New Yorkers protect their privacy and safeguard their digital lives.”