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Proving consent: Tech companies are creating apps to combat sexual assault

Jason Tashea writes, "When having sex in Sweden, “no” means “no” and “yes” must be explicit.

In May, the country’s Parliament passed a law stating that sex without consent is rape, making it the 10th European Union country to do so. Past laws required Swedish prosecutors to show that violence, or the threat of it, had occurred. That isn’t the case anymore.

“This law change is hugely significant,” says Esther Major, senior research adviser at Amnesty International’s Europe office. “The burden is no longer on the victim to prove she fought back but on the perpetrator not to rape in the first place. It shifts the focus from the victim’s behavior to that of the accused.”

As laws change, software developers believe they can leverage technology to bolster and prove consent.

Launched in March, uConsent is an app designed to enshrine consent between two people.

“The app is like a digital handshake,” says Cody Swann, CEO of Las Vegas-based Gunner Technology, which produced the software.

The app requires two people to type in what they consent to. If both enter the same information—confirmed by each person scanning a unique QR code on the other’s phone—then a timestamp and location tag is added, and the agreement is uploaded to uConsent’s servers.

The evening then proceeds as consented, Swann says.

The #MeToo movement has brought consent and sexual assault to the fore. While technologists hope to impact how consent and sexual assault reporting occur, advocates, lawyers and researchers are often skeptical of technology’s role in this sensitive space." 


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