AirTags are small, coin-shaped devices that can be attached to various items such as keys, wallets, bags, or even pets. They use Bluetooth and ultra-wideband technology to communicate with Apple devices and locate the items on a map. They were launched by Apple in April 2021 as a convenient way to find lost or misplaced things.
However, soon after their release, many reports emerged of people using AirTags to track other people without their consent or knowledge. Some of the victims were stalked by their ex-partners, strangers, or even car thieves who planted AirTags in their vehicles or belongings. The device’s small size, low cost, and long battery life made it easy for perpetrators to hide them and monitor their targets’ movements.
How is Apple responding to the stalking allegations?
Apple has faced a lot of criticism and legal action for failing to prevent the misuse of AirTags for stalking purposes. In December 2022, two women filed a class action lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of negligence and invasion of privacy. The lawsuit claimed that Apple ignored the warnings of advocates and experts who raised concerns about the potential dangers of AirTags before and during their launch.
Since then, the lawsuit has expanded to include 38 plaintiffs who have experienced stalking or harassment through AirTags. The lawsuit alleges that Apple’s AirTag is the “weapon of choice” for stalkers and abusers, and that the company’s safety features are “totally inadequate” to protect the victims.
Apple has acknowledged that some “bad actors” have attempted to misuse AirTags, and has implemented some updates to address the issue. For example, AirTags now alert users if they detect an unknown AirTag moving with them for an extended period of time. They also emit a sound after being separated from their owner for a certain amount of time. Additionally, Apple has added a pop-up message that warns users not to use AirTags to track people without their permission, and that doing so is a crime.
What are the experts saying about AirTags and stalking?
Many experts have expressed their views on the problem of AirTag stalking and how it can be prevented or reduced. Some of the suggestions are:
- Educating users about the risks and signs of AirTag stalking, and how to check for unwanted devices in their possessions.
- Increasing the frequency and volume of the alerts and sounds that AirTags make when they are away from their owner or near an unfamiliar device.
- Enabling users to disable or erase any AirTag that they find on them or their property.
- Creating a registry or database of reported or confiscated AirTags that can be used to identify and prosecute the offenders.
- Collaborating with law enforcement agencies and support organizations to help the victims and raise awareness.
What are the implications and challenges of AirTag stalking?
AirTag stalking is a serious issue that poses a threat to the safety and privacy of many people. It can cause physical, emotional, and psychological harm to the victims, as well as financial losses in some cases. It can also create a sense of fear and paranoia among the public, who may feel vulnerable or violated by the possibility of being tracked by unknown devices.
However, addressing this issue is not easy, as it involves technical, legal, ethical, and social aspects. Some of the challenges are:
- Balancing the convenience and utility of AirTags with the potential for abuse and misuse.
- Respecting the rights and preferences of different users who may have different expectations and needs regarding AirTag tracking.
- Regulating and enforcing the laws and policies that govern the use of AirTags and similar devices in different jurisdictions and contexts.
- Developing and implementing effective solutions that can deter, detect, prevent, or stop AirTag stalking.