Not so long ago, a lot of the technology that we now rely on was merely a dream: mobile phones that are essentially handheld computers, watches that calculate not just the steps we take but the pace at which we walk and the amount and quality of our sleep, and cars that basically drive themselves. However, for all of their benefits, there are times when our technological advances can be a double-edged sword – particularly when people take advantage of technology and use it for nefarious purposes. The most recent example: Apple AirTags, which are increasingly being used by stalkers, sexual predators, and others to track their potential victims.
What are Apple AirTags?
Introduced to the market in the first half of 2021, AirTags are small devices that can be attached to your keys, slipped into your wallet or purse, or affixed to any other item you that have a tendency to misplace or that you simply want to keep track of at all times. The AirTag beeps and emits a Bluetooth signal that allows it – and the item it is in or to which it is attached – to be easily located using an app on your mobile device or computer. Data regarding the AirTag’s location is stored in the cloud.
While this is a practical and convenient way to avoid misplacing important items, criminals, ever the opportunists, have already figured out how to use AirTags to their benefit. An alarming number of cases are being reported around the country of people, mainly women, being alerted to the presence of an AirTag nearby, only to later find a random AirTag attached to their vehicle, in their purse, or in another of their possessions. The AirTags do not belong to these women; predators are using the technology to track the women’s locations.
Do Apple AirTags present a real danger to women?
Apple AirTag technology itself is practical and useful when used appropriately. However, in the wrong hands an Apple AirTag can pose a threat to women. A former spouse or significant other, someone a woman turned down for a date, even a stranger. There are a variety of people who might decide to stalk a woman, all for their own reasons, but none of them good. This puts women at greater risk of suffering stalking, violence, sexual assault, or even sex trafficking as a result.
In a recent case in the Baltimore area, a young woman was driving home from a night out with friends when she was alerted to the presence of an AirTag nearby which seemed to be moving with her. This was particularly concerning since it was late at night and hers was the only car on the road, so she became suspicious. The next day, an AirTag was found attached to the wheel well of the woman’s car. It did not belong to her and she had not placed it there. Locating the AirTag was good news, but the damage may have already been done: whomever was responsible for placing the AirTag on her vehicle already knew the woman’s location, as the AirTag had transmitted that data to the cloud. Now, in a world where women already must be constantly on alert, she must be extra vigilant because the person targeting her knows where she lives.
While police are taking these incidents seriously, that is small consolation to a woman who is stalked or sexually assaulted by someone who used an Apple AirTag to track her. The emotional and psychological damage that these crimes cause may haunt a woman for the rest of her life.
And even as law enforcement works to protect women and other vulnerable people from becoming victims of stalking or sexual assault, modified AirTags are now reportedly being sold online. These modified versions have had their speakers removed so that they do not beep to alert anyone to their presence.
What should you do if you receive an alert about a suspicious AirTag?
If you find yourself in a situation similar to the numerous women around the country who have already been victims of this crime, do your best not to panic. If possible, drive to a police station and ask an officer to check your vehicle or belongings for an AirTag. If you are already home or decide to search for it yourself, ask a friend or family member to assist you. Be alert to your surroundings in case anyone is following you or has already followed you home using the AirTag, and if you have any concerns, call the police immediately.
If you do find an AirTag, do not damage or destroy it. Remove the battery and ask the police to file a report detailing when and where it was found. They may be able to trace the AirTag to its owner, who they may be able to arrest and charge with stalking depending on the evidence. Keep in mind that the standard of proof in criminal case requires that the defendant be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Can I sue someone for stalking me through an AirTag?
As with civil claim in South Carolina, you must be able to prove harm which resulted in damages. If you were sexually assault or attacked by someone who stalked you through an AirTag, you can file a lawsuit against your attacker. We can assist you with this lawsuit, and help you seek damages for your medical expenses, your lost wages, and your pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one were victim of stalking, either by someone using an Apple AirTag or other means, you may not find justice in the criminal court. However, you may find it in civil court where the standard of proof is lower and requires you to prove the defendant is most likely responsible. Even if your stalker is tried and convicted in a criminal court, you may still choose to sue them in civil court. If you do, having an experienced South Carolina sexual assault injury attorney like those at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC can make a difference. Our South Carolina sexual assault injury lawyers handle your case with compassion and discretion while fighting aggressively to obtain the civil justice you deserve. Call us at 803-327-7800 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment.
Randy is the former President of the South Carolina Association for Justice. He has been certified by the American Board of Professional Liability as a specialist in Medical Malpractice Law which is recognized by the South Carolina Bar. Randy has also been awarded the distinction of being a “Super Lawyer” 10 times in the last decade. He has over 25 years of experience helping injured people fight back against corporations, hospitals and wrong-doers.
Read more about S. Randall Hood