The Role of Computer Security Customer Support in Helping Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence


Yixin Zou and Allison McDonald, University of Michigan; Julia Narakornpichit, Nicola Dell, and Thomas Ristenpart, Cornell Tech; Kevin Roundy, Norton Research Group; Florian Schaub, University of Michigan; Acar Tamersoy, Norton Research Group


Technology plays an increasingly salient role in facilitating intimate partner violence (IPV). Customer support at computer security companies are receiving cases that involve tech-enabled IPV but might not be well equipped to handle these cases. To assess customer support's existing practices and identify areas for improvement, we conducted five focus groups with professionals who work with IPV survivors (n=17). IPV professionals made numerous suggestions, such as using trauma-informed language, avoiding promises to solve problems, and making referrals to resources and support organizations. To evaluate the practicality of these suggestions, we conducted four focus groups with customer support practitioners (n=11). Support practitioners expressed interest in training agents for IPV cases, but mentioned challenges in identifying potential survivors and frontline agents' limited capacity to help. We conclude with recommendations for computer security companies to better address tech-enabled IPV through training support agents, tracking the prevalence of these cases, and establishing partnerships with IPV advocates.

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@inproceedings {274539,
author = {Yixin Zou and Allison McDonald and Julia Narakornpichit and Nicola Dell and Thomas Ristenpart and Kevin Roundy and Florian Schaub and Acar Tamersoy},
title = {The Role of Computer Security Customer Support in Helping Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence},
booktitle = {30th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 21)},
year = {2021},
isbn = {978-1-939133-24-3},
pages = {429--446},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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