Apple AirTags are a stalker's dream device, lawsuit claims

Apple AirTags are a stalker’s dream device, lawsuit claims

A federal lawsuit targeting Apple and its popular AirTags tracker says the tech device that was created to help people find their lost keys and wallets has “become the weapon of choice for stalkers and muggers.”

The lawsuit accuses Apple of negligently marketing AirTags despite warnings from privacy experts and advocates for domestic violence victims that they could easily be misused.

The lawsuit, filed in Northern California, seeks national certification as a class action – meaning it would apply to others as well as the two women who filed it – and more than 5 millions of dollars in damages.

The dangers of harassment it points to reflect the findings of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation last May that found numerous reports of AirTags being planted on unsuspecting victims in Chicago.

Shortly after AirTags first became available in April 2021, Chicago stalkers discovered how to attach them to their victims’ cars and other objects, the Sun-Times found. Between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, people filed 33 police reports indicating that AirTags had been used to track them, without their knowledge, via Bluetooth technology.

“It’s exactly the same,” says Gillian L. Wade, the Los Angeles attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Texas woman who says she was stalked after breaking off a three-month relationship and a New York woman who says her ex-husband harassed her by putting AirTags in their child’s backpack.

Texas plaintiff Lauren Hughes was so harassed in 2021, according to the lawsuit, that she decided to move to a new apartment. But the lawsuit says that while staying at a hotel before the move, she was horrified to find an AirTag attached to a rear wheel arch of her car. The suit says the man also taunted her on social media, posting a photo of her new neighborhood with a winking emoji and a hashtag referencing AirTags.

Tracking devices are easy to use, accurate and inexpensive, selling for around $29 each.

They emit signals that are detected by Bluetooth sensors in any nearby Apple product, creating what the lawsuit describes as a network of “hundreds of millions” of Apple devices in the United States. This ubiquitous Apple network makes AirTags highly accurate but also “particularly harmful,” the suit says.

It says outside experts have warned Apple that AirTags could be misused, but the tech giant dismissed those concerns, falsely touting the product as “stalker-proof.”

“It’s a dangerous product that they knowingly put on the market,” Wade said.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

Last spring, the company said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms any misuse of our products.” He also said at the time that he was willing to work with police to identify Apple IDs associated with AirTags used in harassment cases.

AirTags have features to prevent abuse, including notifying iPhone users that an AirTag is nearby.

The device also emits a chime when it is away from its owner for a period of time which, according to the trial, ranges from eight to 24 hours.

Critics say these measures aren’t enough because the notification isn’t instantaneous, and the chime isn’t particularly loud or distinctive and can be turned off.

Android phone users do not receive a notification. They must download a free Tracker Detect app and check it frequently to hopefully detect an unwanted tracker, the suit says.

The lawsuit notes that AirTags were used to track the victims of two murders – one in Akron, Ohio, last January in which an ex-boyfriend stalked and shot a woman and then killed himself, the another in Indianapolis in June in which a woman was accused of following her boyfriend, whom she suspected of cheating, to a bar and then running him over with a car.

The lawsuit accuses Apple of negligence for selling a product with a known design defect. It also states that the trackers violate California privacy law.

The Sun-Times found complaints of AirTag harassment across the city, with victims often initially confused about how their attackers found them — until they discovered hidden AirTags.

Wade says since the lawsuit was filed Monday, she’s heard “horrible” stories from across the country of other women and men who said they were harassed using AirTags.

“What we really want here is for people to be safe,” she says. “It puts your privacy under someone else’s control – and your autonomy and security. And that’s just not OK.

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