Women Take Legal Action Against Apple for Enabling Stalking via AirTags
Two women have sued Apple due to the company essentially providing customers with a product that can enable stalking and harassment. The two women filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging that Apple had not done enough to prevent the misuse of AirTags. AirTags were introduced in 2021 and are small tracking devices that were supposed to be an alternative to Find my Phone. Consumers can put these small devices in their phone cases, wallets, or on their keys and will quickly be able to find their belongings if lost.
How the device works is that it can send out a Bluetooth signal which can then be picked up by the owner’s phone if within range. When the phone picks up this signal, it will send the location of the AirTag to the Find My app on the AirTag owner’s phone. Of course, when a company is basically selling small tracking devices for $29.99 a piece, it raises some concerns. The two women who filed the lawsuit alleged that AirTags were placed in or on their belongings without their knowledge. This made it easier for their harassers to continue stalking and harassing them. In turn, it put them in danger by making their location accessible to stalkers and abusers.
Apple has claimed to have designed AirTags to protect privacy. As a result, if someone places their AirTag in your belongings unknowingly, your iPhone is supposed to pick it up and send you a notification. The notification will usually warn “AirTag detected near you.” Once this notification is received, the user has the choice to play a sound to discover the AirTag or to walk through a series of instructions to disable it. However, this new lawsuit questions if these measures are actually enough to prevent stalking and keep individuals out of danger.
Apple AirTag lawsuit explained
The women who filed the lawsuit both experienced being stalked and harassed through the usage of an AirTag. One anonymous woman had recently divorced her ex-husband when she found an AirTag had been planted in her child’s backpack. Upon disabling that one, she soon found another planted elsewhere. The other plaintiff, Lauren Hughes, revealed that she had recently been stalked and harassed by a man she broke up with after a three-month relationship.
The man had harassed her by calling her from blocked numbers, creating fake social media profiles to contact her, and leaving threatening voicemails. As a result of the harassment, she temporarily stayed at a hotel until she could safely return to her apartment. However, after checking in, she receive a notification that an AirTag was nearby. She eventually found it tucked on the wheel well of her vehicle. After she moved to a new location, she found evidence that her harasser was still stalking her via AirTags. He allegedly posted a picture to social media of a taco truck near where she lives with the caption, “#airt2.0.”
The lawsuit further alleged that the measures Apple currently has in place to protect privacy are ineffective. This is because the notification that an AirTag has been placed near one is not immediate. It can take as long as 10 minutes for an iPhone to pick up an AirTag, which is enough time for a stalker or assailant to follow and potentially corner a victim. What’s more concerning is that if the victim doesn’t immediately see the notification, it can take up to 3 days for the device to emit a sound and alert one to its location. There’s also the added concern that some users may not even know what an Airtag is and may unknowingly dismiss or disable notifications. Whether 10 minutes or 3 days, the consequences of a stalker accessing a victim’s location for any period of time can be fatal. On top of all of this, there don’t seem to be any protections available if the person targeted doesn’t own an iPhone.
These women are far from the only ones who have spoken out about the panic and horror of realizing they were being unknowingly tracked. It is time for Apple to take action and ensure their product is not endangering individuals.
(featured image: Matthew Henry from Burst)
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