The dark side of light tracking devices like Apple AirTags
LaPrecia Sanders: Had that device not been in that car, my son would still be living today. She found my son because of the Apple AirTag.
Simone Del Rosario: It’s the dark side of a device so light, victims don’t even know it’s there.
News report: A beautiful Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model is issuing a warning after she says someone planted a tiny tracking device in her coat. It was the scariest, scariest moment ever.
Apple’s Carolyn Wolfman-Estrada: Today, we’re adding to this growing ecosystem with a new iPhone accessory that makes finding things even easier.
Simone Del Rosario: Things? Or people? Since Apple launched AirTags in 2021, people have used these quarter-sized devices to track anything they don’t want to lose. A wallet. A puppy. Luggage. That one’s come in handy. But criminals quickly capitalized on more nefarious utility.
News report: Thieves are using technology such as Apple’s AirTags to track and steal cars.
Lauren Hughes: I was actually loading things into my vehicle at the time when I got the notification that the AirTag was moving with me.
Simone Del Rosario: Lauren Hughes sued Apple late last year after she says she found an AirTag in the wheel well of her car, planted there by a stalker she was actively trying to escape. The proposed class action lawsuit claims Apple didn’t take effective measures to prevent abuse, saying, “it has become the weapon of choice of stalkers and abusers.”
In June 2022, Indianapolis police say an ex-girlfriend tracked and killed 26-year-old Andre Smith after planting an AirTag in his car.
LaPrecia Sanders: She went head on and ran my son over. And she didn’t do it once. She did it three times. Ended up with a 4,000-pound car sitting on top of my son.
Simone Del Rosario: More recently, those meant to uphold the law are now accused of illegally using these devices. The FBI is actively investigating the disbanded LAPD gang unit, where officers are suspected of slipping AirTags into vehicles they stopped, allowing them to track suspects without a warrant. Not to mention a new internal investigation into an LAPD assistant chief.
News report: Assistant Chief Al Labrada is accused of stalking a subordinate, a female officer with whom he had a romantic relationship. She found that Apple AirTag inside of a waterproof plastic box.
Simone Del Rosario: From the jump, Apple clearly knew this could be an issue.
Apple’s Carolyn Wolfman-Estrada: AirTag is designed to track items, not people. So we included safety features to discourage unwanted tracking.
Simone Del Rosario: If Apple detects an AirTag traveling with you that doesn’t belong to you, they’ll send you an alert. That’s how stalking victims found out they were being tracked. But Android users need a specific app for the same feature. And Apple didn’t launch Tracker Detect until nearly 8 months after AirTags came out. Nearly 10 months after the tech launched, Apple noted, “incidents of AirTag misuse are rare; however, each instance is one too many.”
And this isn’t just Apple’s problem. Because of course, it’s not just AirTag, but Tile and others. Domestic violence victim advocates pushed for universal standards to combat unwanted trackers. And Apple and Google say by the end of 2023, there will be a standard unwanted tracking alert.