Domestic Violence, Data Privacy, Technology, Washington State


The United States has been patiently waiting for a comprehensive federal data privacy law to protect consumers. However, strong data privacy laws can also protect a less thought-about group: survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner violence. As new technology proliferates into our daily lives, technology-based abuse is quickly becoming a common form of intimate partner abuse. Domestic violence survivors and advocates have to stay extra vigilant about who has access to their internet data. Needing to understand technology-specific safety measures and learn technology-literacy skills adds more work to already overwhelmed domestic violence advocates and survivors. Could the law serve to take on some of the work to protect survivors from tech-based abuse without further shrinking their autonomy and complexity in their experiences? While new data privacy laws in the European Union and California were crafted with consumer rights in mind, they can be used to protect the rights of domestic violence survivors, whether through direct application or by inspiration. This article explores the extent that legal relief is available for domestic violence survivors in Washington state–especially for survivors of technology-based abuse–and how data privacy laws could augment and expand available legal relief, particularly options that can lessen a survivor’s reliance on the criminal justice system. An intersectional analysis of domestic violence reveals the harm of a singular narrative of intimate partner abuse and sheds light on the shortcomings of criminal laws as the sole source of relief for victims of tech-based abuse. Enacting data privacy laws that provide heighten protection over the data of survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner violence can not only provide additional technology safeguards to protect survivors, but also reignite the conversation on a private right of action for violence against women and intimate partners.