Domestic Abuse "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely

A person’s morality tends to lessens as their power increases. An observation by Lord Acton.

I read this article on the BBC news Website.

The whole purpose of HA and automation systems in general is to control. How many of you have stopped to consider that you could be risking domestic abuse through tech?
Is this a community or a club? An exclusive Club? What’s out ethical stance?
Any of you who are married know of the battle of the Thermostat. No Temp suits all.
The Homeassistant problem first hit me when my wife was less than enthusiastic to put the traccar app on her phone for geofencing. It never even caused me a thought to put the app on my phone. I control the system.
I gave her access to homeassistant and up and down the thermostat goes. Although I know I could cut her out of the system at any time.
I have cameras round my house to protect my family. Even that could look like controlling.

Do we ever stop to think?!

Me personally? Yes, and all the time. I discuss my plans with my wife and not all of them get done the way I’d like as a result. Sometimes (often even) discussing it with someone who I care about and who cares about me results in an improvement on the original plan.

I’m also in charge of technology for two school districts, and spend vast amounts of time thinking about the balance between what’s possible and what’s ethical, and how to best help my faculty and students achieve their best selves in light of all that.

Abusers will naturally take any advantage offered, but I disagree with the premise that most people will tend to become less moral with increased power. Maybe I’m still naive after all these years. :slightly_frowning_face:


Yes there is that power. Often my wife wants the heat pump on all day so the house is warm when we come home after work. If she gets her way, I can turn it off at work and then back on again at 4.00 pm.

What I’d never do is change it if she is home for the day. I could, but I wouldn’t.

She tells me cameras inside the house are creepy. I have listened and we only have the one that innocuously covers the front door and entranceway.

Knowing where our spouses and kids are all the time is great for safety and automation. But it could also display a profound lack of trust.

But don’t forget that the commercial services are worse - they know where your wife is too.


Absolutely. My automation.gaslighting doesn’t control gas lights.


Home automation is the perfect tool for gaslighting. That’s made me rethink the Halloween tricks I had planned.

April 1st is another good candidate.

On the serious side, I have had guests that were uncomfortable with being monitored by a bed sensor, so I just showed them where to unplug the power to it.

Pretty sure there’s been a couple of threads on this already, and I know it’s been discussed over on Discord a few times.

I’m the resident tech in the house. I have the skills, and access to the tools, to monitor the ever living daylights out of all use of technology, including intercepting and decrypting encrypted traffic. I don’t though. There’s this strange thing called trust in place, and this is a partnership, not a dictatorship - though kids may disagree at times :wink:

It’s the same trust that means that we’re all comfortable sharing phone locations all the time. We know it’s not used for snooping, but for checking that we’re ok when plans go astray. Like the day I was in the same general area as a bomb that went off, and the wife could immediately check to see if I was far enough away that she didn’t have to panic. Her phone call to me saying how glad she was that I was ok was the first I’d heard of it. Or when the news blew up about a school bus fire with kids in hospital, and we were able to see that our child was safely at school.

It’s the same trust that extends through the rest of family life. That’s how family is supposed to be after all, even if far too many families don’t achieve that.

Also, we talk about stuff (shocking I know). For example, there’s no active smart cameras inside the house )other than those on the phones). Even the ones in the Google Hubs are shuttered. Why? Because we talked about it and all agreed that it was a step too far - even if we hadn’t all agreed, just one person saying no would have been enough. Similarly if somebody doesn’t like how the “smarts” behave, I listen and adjust things.

For me, automation isn’t about control it’s about convenience (aka being lazy) and assistance.

Finally, saying that a person’s morality tends to lessens as their power increases is … well, we’re not supposed to be rude here, so I’ll just say it’s using a rocket boost while leaping to conclusions. I think it’s more accurate to say that immoral people act more as their power increases. As the saying goes, you can tell the measure of somebody by what they do when they think nobody’s watching…


It’s actually refreshing to see a non-technical question here, thanks!

I tend to agree with the premise that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

My response is to try to fight it. I don’t have indoor cameras in any living spaces. Even my outdoor cameras are carefully placed so as not to infringe on my neighbors’ privacy. I don’t have bed occupancy sensors or toothbrush sensors. I find all those things a bit too creepy.

On my phone, I have tracking turned on. My wife knows she can, in theory, see where I am. But she never seems to remember exactly how. I don’t think her tracking is turned on, but frankly I’ve never checked.

I have a theory about why power corrupts. The best example is high elected officials. I suspect many people get into politics because they want to make things “better” (whatever that means to them.) But once in power, you can only be effective if you STAY in power. This quickly devolves into a “ends justifies the means” situation. A siege mentality sets in where it’s a constant battle with those on the “other team” who are trying to win the next election. In the end, even with good intentions, their actions become downright evil.

Then there are those few power-hungry individuals who don’t care at all about making the world a better place. It’s pretty obvious who they are, but for some reason we all keep voting for them anyway.

Anyone who associates disagreements over the thermostat setting to domestic abuse, doesn’t understand the meaning of domestic abuse and insults victims of domestic abuse.

It’s as tone deaf as describing a sports team’s crushing defeat as a ‘holocaust’.

If you are imposing your hobby on your spouse without their full consent, that’s not ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’, that’s you being an a$$hole.

It’s valuable to discuss how our hobby affects the lives of our loved ones, for better or worse. We can do that without resorting to false equivalencies and hyperbole.

In our household, we discuss any proposal that may impact our lives. Naturally, that also includes home automation because some of its convenience comes at the cost of privacy. That’s a threshold each household determines for itself, preferably consensually. For example, we don’t track our whereabouts, disallow interior cameras, but do permit voice assistants. Your situation is likely to be different, but ideally it should be based on agreement not imposition.


Ohh. That’s another one. I did install IP cameras in two locations (blatantly obvious installs) inside my house. As I am usually the sole occupant I was ok with this and use them for checking on the house while away for long periods. The solution for privacy for my house sitter (when I have one who isn’t stuck in another state due to covid) is to provide her with a couple of Velcro patches that cover the lenses.

I recently let a good friend of mine quarantine at my empty house as part of an immigration requirement. Same deal with the lens patches and she was happy. When it was over, just before she left, I sent the following TTS message to the main house speaker:

“It’s stupid. I know I’m only a machine but I’m going to miss you”.

From then on she has been referring to home assistant as “the lady” and going to visit her when she empties my snail mail box.

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Regarding the NY Times article:

Imagine a dysfunctional relationship. One or both parties seek to torment the other. They will leverage whatever means or tools available to achieve that goal. The gamut includes stalking, shaming, interfering, inconveniencing, and anything else imaginable to cause psychological and physical distress.

Screwing around with smarthome gadgetry is just another new low on the downhill road to tormenting an ex-lover. Fortunately, it’s one of the easier ones to mitigate. It’s small potatoes compared to what can be done by an ex-SO who may have all your personal information and can assume your online identity.

Hopefully, no one here has the misfortune to be in that position and we are simply discussing the impact of our hobby on functional relationships.

Power does Not Corrupt. Power only exposes the evil already within.

I give free access to family with no limits to use.
I inform them of issues that will arise from things like
Off/on a bulb based projector
Temp up and down or super low/high

If I feel there is issue I discuss it.

I do not place camera in interior of home. If I do I will discuss with all the comfort level and explain purpose and make sure there is agreement.

I actively prevent wifi monitoring and control.

I have heard of others who inform guest when enter home. I not do this but am considering methods and areas where it may be needed for future implementing. I think minimum will be something regarding cameras and surveillance and alexa (a sign at entry and maybe notice on guest wifi page).

A person can be physically, mentally or technologically abusive without their awareness.

I believe some with ignore this possiblity or even actively perform these acts. These people are basically jerks and are likely corrupted by power.

Others actively look to prevent this abuses. This person will make mistakes and may unintentionally commit abuse but will quickly notice and make change. More importantly they will always consider the risk before take action.

And a third category of individually will stumble through these issues improving as they go. This person is not bad, they are normal and want the best for others but not always easily identify the problems. They make mistakes but correct them when noticed.

That said. Free the AC!! #chillout :laughing:


I implemented a lot of things in our home and it was interesting to see how features are being seen by e.g. my parents.
Like the hass app tracker was active on all phones. Nobody really ever goes anywhere without the others knowing where he is. One of my parents didn’t care at all about the tracker and me knowing the location at all times, while the other parent turned it off soon.
Or them being surprised when I tell them at what time they left the house or came back, simply because of wifi device tracking.

Both information where already there and are even constantly gathered by the router, by google and others but nobody really cares. Only once you summarize those information and use them to your own “advantage” and present it to people, they are surprised and a bit shocked about the amount of information I have and it can feel like an abuse of power.
But only when done by a person, the big corporations where only machines use your data doesn’t seem to matter in many cases.

But especially because of that I talk about things I implemented and if anyone feels uncomfortable, I will remove it again (or not implement it in the first place). We do however not use any voice assistants or cameras.

Not completely related, but not unrelated either:
As @tmjpugh has said Power does not ‘necessarily’ corrupt. If you have the power, you can also make someone’s life easier and more rewarding. Unfortunately, those that want to take advantage of others, will. In most cases, people institute things ‘thinking’ it will improve/help others but never actually get the input of those they are ‘helping’. Regardless if you mean well or not, if you don’t have a conversation with others then you ARE the actual problem.

I think I may know what is best for my family, but if I don’t actually get them involved then I am not actually helping anyone. That is not to say don’t try something out until you hash it over but you do need to demonstrate what your intent is and be honest with how it is done. If you withhold some aspect of how something is done because you think/know someone will disapprove; well, you already know that you probably should not be doing it. Even if you KNOW that the way you implement something is the best way possible, if you don’t listen to or you just ignore decent to what you are doing then again YOU are the problem. Yes there are exceptions to this, such as young children being ‘supervised’ by a camera (but exceptions should be RARE occurrences).

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As the saying goes:

“Nothing about us, without us.”

After reading the whole thread…

Without clutching the pearls too much here, I do agree that the euphemism about domestic violence perhaps is going a bit far. As a person with some knowledge and understanding about domestic violence (and also how modern technology can help and drastically exacerbate it), I think it’s probably overcompensating to clamp down on home automation excessively to prevent such events from occuring. The sad truth is … the world has awful, mean, evil people in it. And sometimes they do awful things. And we should do everything we can to prevent that, within reason.

But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, that cannot occur – and our best best is to understand that fate and chance plays a role, people will always suffer as long we live and breathe as individuals and a species on this earth, and we cannot control everything. Indeed, much is out of our control. But especially the actions of others – most especially those who would have occasion or tendency to harm us in ways such as domestic violence.

We should do what we can to prevent, but we must also accept that these things will happen – and do our best to care for those affected by it, after such awful things happen. Sometimes, the best we can do is be there, offer an escape, a shoulder to cry on – and witness and grieve. And then be there to help recover and support (whether individually to someone, safely, or by offering financial or material support to them or programs).

As far as H.A. (home automation) goes – this is my thinking: like any tool, it’s really just an object, a lump of matter (or, in this case, code and an idea) in the universe. It’s what people do with it, once in their hands, that really is key. And if a person is awful, they’re going to do awful things with it.

But, we should not forget the possibility, too – that it might be good enough someday that if someone is being assaulted, harmed, abused…and in that moment, that could not be caught before, because the victim was alone and isolated, they cry for help…?

Maybe our systems, someday, will know who to call – and make that call. And help might arrive.

In this way, I like to think that AI (or bad programming on the part of abusers, in the vein of poetic justice) might call exactly for the right help at that moment and arrive to help the person, or at least intervene. And I think the “bad guys” who institute home automation and AI to harm? Well, they should read more of these stories about Siri finding ways to “accidentally” call the police before they bother proliferating HA to use on a victim. You never know what the assistant might misunderstand and do.

Anyway, those are my thoughts – good thread for discussion, especially given the holiday season and the isolation many are experiencing. Tonight, I’m going to say a little prayer folks affected by domestic violence…and see if I can’t get my HA to say it with me :wink: