Apple’s new product AirTags, used to keep track of one’s personal property, are concerning law enforcement for their criminal misuse linked to stalking and car theft.
Police in Colorado, Texas, Michigan and Georgia have linked the product with domestic stalking and car theft crimes on multiple occasions. According to the Twin Fall’s Sheriff’s Office in Idaho, the AirTags have been used by criminals to track people or their cars against their will.
In one case, a woman said she was notified by her phone that an AirTag was “moving with her” and that the owner of the tag could locate her.
The next day, she found the AirTag attached inside the wheel well of her car.
“It bothers me cause no matter how *safe* women try to be (I was NEVER alone, parked somewhere well lit, etc…) it doesn’t matter if someone truly wishes to harm you,” the woman wrote.
According to NBC News, evidence is mounting from law enforcement officials, local news reports, and personal anecdotes that the Apple product is being used for criminal activity.
Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said she anticipated the product could be used for invasive and criminal actions.
“I don’t think there’s any question that Apple’s AirTags are being used for stalking,” she said.
The AirTags also have legitimate use to deter crime or find stolen property. A Connecticut Police Department even suggested placing the product in backpacks or their car or bike to be able to track it in case of theft.
Despite their valid use case, California online abuse lawyer Adam Dodge told NBC News said the product adds further surveillance capabilities for criminals.
“People who are engaging in unhealthy or abusive behavior suddenly became aware of a sophisticated, inexpensive and enormously effective tool.”
AirTags are relatively inexpensive, costing about $29 per tag. It is estimated that over 25 million tags have been sold, according to experts like Gene Munster, a managing partner at investment firm Loup.
To address the unwanted tracking issues, Apple recently added a device update to make the AirTag play a sound if it’s away from its owner for too long, thereby notifying someone if they are being tracked. Apple shortened the time for the alarm sound from three days to anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.
Apple also released an app called Tracker Detect for android users that can detect the presence of an unwanted tracker. Previously, only iPhone users had this detection ability.
Erica Olsen, safety net project director at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, credited Apple with adding these safeguards to their device, something other manufacturers of homing beacons have neglected.
“We’re happy to see some steps toward putting safeguards in place, and we’re really hoping it becomes an industry-wide standard,” Olsen said.
Longmont Police Department Detective Bryan Franke told NBC that his department is investigating two recent cases of domestic stalking in which AirTags were used. Franke said that while the device has some advantages over GPS trackers, there are also disadvantages like the phone notifications and sound deterrents. As such, he thinks criminals will eventually stop using them and find something that is more efficient.
“They’re going to be popular for now, but I think they’ll start to fade out. They won’t go away, obviously,” Franke said.
There have also been several documented reports in Detroit, Austin, and Toronto of the devices being used to track high-end vehicles, allowing thieves to pick the right time to make the theft.
Apple said they will make the Apple ID and its associated personal information connected with the device linked to a crime available to law enforcement upon a valid subpoena to identify criminals.