Apple AirTags Triggered 'Explosion' of Stalking Reports Nationwide … – Slashdot

Ashley Belanger reports via Ars Technica: This month, more than three dozen victims allegedly terrorized by stalkers using Apple AirTags have joined a class-action lawsuit filed in a California court last December against Apple. They alleged in an amended complaint (PDF) that, partly due to Apple’s negligence, AirTags have become “one of the most dangerous and frightening technologies employed by stalkers” because they can be easily, cheaply, and covertly used to determine “real-time location information to track victims.” Since the lawsuit was initially filed in 2022, plaintiffs have alleged that there has been an “explosion of reporting” showing that AirTags are frequently being used for stalking, including a spike in international AirTags stalking cases and more than 150 police reports in the US as of April 2022. More recently, there were 19 AirTags stalking cases in one US metropolitan area — Tulsa, Oklahoma — alone, the complaint said.

This seeming escalation is concerning, plaintiffs say, because Apple allegedly has not done enough to mitigate harms, and AirTags stalking can lead to financial ruin, as victims bear significant costs like hiring mechanics to strip their cars to locate AirTags or repeatedly relocating their homes. AirTags stalking can also end in violence, including murder, plaintiffs alleged, and the problem is likely bigger than anyone knows, because stalking is historically underreported. […] Many plaintiffs said they had no clue what AirTags were when they first discovered hidden AirTags were being used to monitor their moves. At the very least, plaintiffs want Apple to be responsible for raising awareness of how AirTags are used by stalkers — not just to inform people who are at risk of stalking but also to ensure law enforcement is aware. Plaintiffs have alleged that Apple did not provide information to police that prevented them from accessing protective orders and pressing criminal charges. The complaint also suggested other remedies Apple could provide, like improving the consistency of AirTag alerts, which plaintiffs claimed only sometimes appeared on iPhones, so that users are always aware when an AirTag is nearby. “Apple continues to find itself in the position of reacting to the harms its product has unleashed, as opposed to prophylactically preventing those harms,” the complaint said.

A technology specialist for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Corbin Streett, is also quoted in the complaint, pointing out that Apple’s threat model seemed to only consider risks of strangers using AirTags for unwanted stalking, not abusive partners. That’s a problem since advocacy groups like the federally funded Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center report (PDF) that the “vast majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know” and “intimate partner stalkers are the most likely stalkers to approach, threaten, and harm their victims.” “I hope Apple keeps their learning hat on and works to figure out that piece of the puzzle,” Streett said.


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