Two women are suing Apple, saying the AirTag devices make it too easy for stalkers to track their victims without them knowing.
Lauren Hughes, of Texas, and a second woman, identified only as Jane Doe, filed a class action lawsuit Monday against the tech giant alleging it was negligent in making and marketing the low-cost tracking devices.
Their lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, details how Apple released the devices against the advice of experts who warned the company about potential security vulnerabilities — and then downplayed the risks.
In the aftermath, Hughes said she found one of the devices in the wheel well of her car that helped her ex-boyfriend find where she had moved to avoid his harassment, while the other victim said her estranged husband was tracking her movements by placing an AirTag. in her child’s backpack.
Their stories echo a slew of other reports from women around the world who have found AirTags on their person — including Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Brooks Nader, who revealed in January how she found one of the devices in her coat pocket.
Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooks Nader revealed in January that she was stalked for five hours by someone using an Apple AirTag while grabbing drinks in New York City
AirTags were first rolled out last year to help Apple users keep track of their personal belongings, such as their wallets and keys. They can connect to all iOS devices
Apple first introduced AirTags in April 2021 to help Apple users keep track of their personal belongings, such as their wallets and keys.
It uses Bluetooth connectivity to send its location to any iPhone, iPod or iPad via the ‘Find My’ app.
Apple executives had advertised that they were “stalker-proof” when they were first released, saying they include bell notifications to inform users of Apple devices if an AirTag has been within 10 meters of them for an extended period of time .
But domestic violence organizations have warned — even before the devices were rolled out — that they could allow abusers to more easily locate their victims.
And since the devices came on the market, an investigation has been ongoing Shame found earlier this year that 150 police reports from dozens of US police departments involved AirTags over an eight-month period.
Of those 150 reports, a full quarter involved women who called the police because they started getting reports that their whereabouts were tracked by an AirTag they didn’t have.
However, attorneys representing Hughes and Jane Doe say that number only includes incidents reported to police or obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests for information, noting in the lawsuit, “After investigation, information and belief of plaintiff’s counsel, this number is significantly higher. ‘
They note that Apple products are ubiquitous in the United States, making it “virtually impossible to hide from an AirTag in most, if not all, populated areas.”
Earlier this year, Apple made some security upgrades to the devices under CEO Tim Cook
Apple then made some upgrades to the devices earlier this year, reducing the time Apple users would receive notifications and notifying users of Apple devices when an AirTag not registered to them was “Moving With You.”
It has also released an app for Android users that allows them to scan for AirTags around them – but the plaintiffs say these protections are still “unfortunately inadequate and do little or nothing to immediately alert individuals if they are being tracked”.
WHAT ARE AIR TAGS?
Released by Apple in 2021, AirTags are small, round tracking devices, slightly larger than a two-pound coin, and cost £29 each.
Users can locate personal items with an AirTag — such as wallets, keys, luggage, or even a stolen bike — by using a map in Apple’s “Find My” app.
But AirTag owners are increasingly using the coin-sized devices to plant people without their knowledge and then track their whereabouts on the Find My map.
The lawyers say the warnings for Apple users were not sufficient as they would not be released until 72 hours after an AirTag was in range.
“In other words, a victim could have been stalked for three days before Apple warned them of the potential danger,” they write in the lawsuit, noting that the notifications would only be sent to individuals with iPhones, iPads or iPod Touches running iOS version 14.5 or higher.
And those using Android devices, which they say make up nearly half of all Americans, would not receive notifications.
Android users should therefore be ‘selectively and intentionally involved’ [the app] to run a scan for nearby AirTags, though it wouldn’t determine the actual location and might detect devices on other people in populated areas.
The lawyers also say the alarm the device emits is only 60 decibels, which is about as loud as normal conversation between two people or background music.
“In addition,” says the suit, “the sound isn’t particularly distinctive, meaning it could be mistaken for other benign and ambient sounds coming from other devices.”
“This is especially problematic if the victim is hard of hearing or is in a loud environment where they are muffled or out of range of hearing.
“Even worse,” they note, “people have figured out how to disable the speaker on AirTags and are selling “silent AirTags” on mainstream e-commerce sites like eBay and Etsy.”
For Hughes and the Jane Doe, these ubiquitous devices have proven detrimental for these reasons.
Hughes reports that she had recently ended a three-month relationship in August 2021 when her ex-boyfriend started posting abusive messages on social media accounts and using a fake account to try to monitor her private accounts.
He soon began calling her from blocked numbers and leaving threatening voicemails, the lawsuit alleges, and eventually left items at her home.
Fearing for her safety, Hughes decided to move out in October 2021. But when she returned to her hotel on Oct. 7, she said she received a notification on her iPhone that an unknown AirTag was nearby.
She “tried to turn on the feature that made the AirTag beep, but only got it to work once,” the suit says, before finally finding the AirTag in the wheel well of her car’s rear passenger tire.
It was colored with Sharpie marker and tied in a plastic baggie.
Hughes decided to go to the local police soon after, but was reportedly told they could read her stalker a stoppage ‘but that’s about it’.
According to the suit, on March 15, 2022, her stalker posted a photo to social media showing a taco truck in her new neighborhood with hashtags referencing her new location and a winking emoji with the separate hashtag #airt2.0.
The Jane Doe, meanwhile, first found an AirTag in her child’s backpack in the summer of 2022 after a contentious divorce in which her estranged husband harassed and challenged her about her whereabouts.
According to the indictment, she “tried to disable or otherwise disable that AirTag, but another one soon appeared in its place.”
She then allegedly got a friend to download the Android app to find the trackers, but she was unable to “confirm or deny whether a specific AirTag was placed in her child’s belongings by her estranged husband.”
Both women continue to fear for their safety as their stalkers have demonstrated a commitment to continue using AirTags to track, harass and threaten her and to continue using AirTags to find their locations.
They are now asking others across the country to join their lawsuit for unspecified punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and an injunction to stop Apple from continuing to commit its illegal and unfair invasions of privacy. in deploying the AirTags despite security concerns.
“Apple has knowingly introduced a self-contained device into the stream of commerce whose sole purpose is to locate what it is attached to,” the lawsuit states.
“Apple did this despite warnings prior to and immediately after the release of the AirTag that the product is a dangerous tool that enables stalkers and abusers.”
DailyMail.com has contacted Apple for comment.