He AirTaginitially conceived to help the distracted find their devices Manzanahas become a harassment tool, motivating complaints from users and lawsuits against the manzanita brand.
This coin-sized sensor, which can be purchased for $29 in the United States, is “a very easy way to track things”, according to the Apple website, which recommends hanging it on your key ring, or carrying it in your wallet or backpack.
When connected to a smartphone app, an AirTag helps users pinpoint the real-time location of their belongings should they go missing, but the transmitter can also track the humans carrying those items, sometimes without your knowledge.
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That’s what happened to American singer Alison Carney in June 2022, when she found an AirTag in her bag as she was preparing to go onstage at a concert in Chicago.
Carney said he hadn’t put the AirTag there and never received a notification from his iPhone warning him that an unknown accessory had been found nearby.
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The find helped Carney understand several confusing events in his life. Since the end of her tumultuous relationship, her ex-boyfriend had been calling and texting her incessantly, even knocking on her door in the middle of the night or showing up at restaurants where she was eating.
“When we found this AirTag, it was clear that she wasn’t crazy. I knew someone was following me”, the young woman, who lives in Washington, told AFP.
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“I felt violated. I isolated myself. I stopped dating”, he counted. “I know that someone has the ability to place a device on my body, on my belongings, and track me for the rest of my life. And (these devices) are getting smaller and harder to detect”, she continued angrily.
Carney is not the only one in the United States who was followed against her will with an AirTag.
Last June, a 26-year-old man in Indiana was killed by his girlfriend, who tracked his location via AirTag after she suspected he was cheating on her, according to court documents.
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The latest case dates back to February 5 in Irving, a small town north of Dallas, Texas. Robert Reeves, spokesman for the local police, told AFP that they had already dealt with several cases related to the famous Apple sensor, in which the victim and the stalker already knew each other.
According to Reeves, the next step after a complaint on this issue is to identify the owner of the account associated with the AirTag, using the object’s serial number.
But because Carney didn’t file a police report for fear of retaliation, she hasn’t been able to find out for sure who is behind the AirTag she found in her bag.
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Contacted by AFP, Apple sent a press release published in February 2022 condemning “with the utmost firmness any malicious use” of its product and ensured that the updates promised in that release “have already entered into force”.
Lawsuits against Apple
However, more is needed to convince Lauren Hughes and Jane Doe (a name used in the United States when the person wants to remain anonymous), who filed lawsuits against Apple in California.
Doe said that after their divorce, her ex-husband attached an AirTag to their son’s backpack twice.
And in a lawsuit filed in December, Hughes said he found an AirTag, colored in with a marker and wrapped in a plastic bag, taped to the wheel well of his car.
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In court documents, both women question Apple for what they consider insufficient warning to users about this sensor.
Company-sent AirTag alerts are not necessarily immediate and are only available on iPhones running iOS 14.5 or later.
In addition to older Apple devices, it’s Android phone owners who worry Albert Cahn, a Harvard University researcher and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Monitoring Project.
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“Android users can only discover devices if they download an Apple app and then specifically search for AirTags. Does Apple expect Android users to spend their days constantly checking that they’re not being tracked?”, Cahn told AFP.
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