Maryland’s legislature has unanimously passed a bill that will require law enforcement agencies to learn, as part of their standard training, to recognize the common tactics of electronic surveillance and the laws around such activities. This victory that will help provide survivors of domestic abuse, intimate partner violence, and other electronic stalking with much-needed support.
The bill, S.B. 134, passed unanimously through the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates. EFF thanks this bill’s author, Senator Susan Lee, and her staff for all of their work on this bill. The bill originated from conversations between the Senator’s office and EFF Director of Cybersecurity Eva Galperin, based on her extensive work on “stalkerware”—commercially-available apps that can be covertly installed on another person’s device for the purpose of monitoring their activity without their knowledge or consent. The bill is now on Governor Larry Hogan’s desk. If he either signs it or waives his right to veto, then it will become law.
For more than two years, EFF has been a proud founding member of the Coalition Against Stalkerware. This coalition provides training, published tools and research to raise awareness about stalkerware. Its members also work directly with survivors of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence and the organizations that support them.
A 2021 Norton Lifelock survey of 10,000 adults across ten countries found that almost 1 in 10 respondents who had been in a romantic relationship admitted to using a stalkerware app to monitor a current or former partner’s device activity. Yet many survivors report that law enforcement officials often fail to understand the seriousness of electronic stalking or stalkerware. This raises a simple point: law enforcement officials can’t find what they don’t know to look for.
The bill is simple, but will have a big impact. It requires that the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission require new and currently serving police with training to better recognize cyberstalking, and understand the criminal laws concerning electronic surveillance and tracking.
We applaud Senator Lee again for her leadership. We also encourage other lawmakers to use S.B. 134 as a template for future bills, to give these survivors the support they need.