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The Authorized System Is Utterly Unprepared for Apple AirTag Stalking

Till her ex-husband put one in her son’s backpack, Naomi Dozier didn’t know what AirTags had been. 

In March, Dozier was within the technique of transferring along with her three youngsters when her ex-husband demanded to know the place they had been staying. She supplied the tackle, pondering it’d placate him, but it surely didn’t—days later, she mentioned, he wrote a declaration to the court docket stating his grave concern for the children.

“He knew the place we had been, and he knew the whole lot in regards to the inside the home, the skin of the home,” Dozier instructed me. “He knew precisely the place the children slept.” 

That month, whereas driving her sons—11, 13, and 16 years outdated—to highschool, she obtained a notification on her iPhone that an AirTag was monitoring her location. She recalled her oldest son mentioned he obtained the identical notification on his telephone. About each 24 hours for a number of months, she mentioned, she acquired notifications that an Apple AirTag was transferring along with her. However she couldn’t discover the machine wherever. 

Lastly, in June, she discovered it inside considered one of her sons’ backpacks, in an insulated lunch pocket, taped down within the very backside with white duct tape to match the liner of the bag.

In keeping with Dozier, her ex admitted earlier than a choose that in late March, he’d positioned the AirTag there. Her ex-husband’s legal professional declined to remark for this story.

When Dozier instructed me this story in October, she was trying ahead to an upcoming court docket listening to that might decide whether or not a short lived restraining order in opposition to her ex would stay in place. “That will give me some huge cast-iron boundaries round how he behaves,” she mentioned. 

Since discovering the AirTag, she’d achieved quite a lot of analysis into how the units work, and the way the legislation protects (or doesn’t shield) victims of stalking and harassment via monitoring units. The police and the district legal professional didn’t know what an AirTag was, or the way it labored, so she purchased one herself to experiment with utilizing it on a consenting pal.

Apple has been below hearth for stalking capabilities of its AirTag monitoring units for nearly the whole lot of the lifetime of the machine, and this week, two girls introduced a lawsuit in opposition to Apple, claiming that the units make it straightforward for stalkers to trace victims. One of many girls claims that her ex-boyfriend positioned an AirTag within the wheel effectively of her automobile to trace her. The opposite’s story is just like Dozier’s: her estranged husband, she claimed, positioned an AirTag of their youngster’s backpack with a view to comply with her.

Their tales are only a few of many, largely girls, who’ve reported stalking and harassment enabled by AirTags.


Cynthia Godsoe, a professor of legislation at Brooklyn Legislation College, instructed me that the function of expertise in household legislation is turning into increasingly prevalent. The place somebody used to have to rent a personal investigator to comply with somebody round to construct proof in opposition to them in a custody or divorce case, she mentioned, they’ll now use one thing like a monitoring machine—and even simply Fb posts to make a case in opposition to their ex.

“I do not assume that felony legislation, by way of home violence, has ever achieved an excellent job—whether or not it is stalking via expertise or simply extra conventional abuse—and a part of that’s as a result of for therefore many individuals, their lives are so intertwined,” Godsoe mentioned. 

Anecdotally, Godsoe mentioned, sharing issues like e-mail passwords and even medical insurance information might quantity to methods a jilted companion may attempt to surveil an ex, and use that info in court docket to achieve the higher hand. “It is an actual drawback. Principally, individuals simply need to be very, very vigilant,” she mentioned. “Whenever you’re along with somebody for a very long time, there’s a lot overlap, that you simply actually have opened the door to let somebody into your life.” 

That is compounded by the best way the courts are inclined to view household disputes via a gendered lens, Godsoe mentioned. 

“There may be numerous gender bias in household legislation. And I feel there’s the belief that males usually are not as concerned, however then girls get slammed if they don’t seem to be good,” she mentioned. 

In keeping with Godsoe, even earlier than monitoring units, tech has been used in opposition to girls in court docket; they’re usually suggested to close down their social media, not go on dates and keep away from consuming throughout household legislation battles. 

“I feel it is form of loopy that parenting has turn into so scrutinized, that it’s a method for abusers—or simply, even when not abusive, simply nasty individuals—to make use of [social media] in opposition to somebody, to actually surveil their life,” she mentioned. 

In California, the place Dozier lives, ​​the legislation states that “no particular person or entity on this state shall use an digital monitoring machine to find out the situation or motion of an individual.” However there are facets of stalking via AirTags that may make it even more durable for married individuals to get recourse; for instance, if a monitoring machine is left in a automobile that they share, and that automobile is registered within the abuser’s identify, this legislation doesn’t apply, and it may be practically unattainable to show in court docket that the goal was being stalked in any respect. 

Dozier despatched the district legal professional Motherboard’s earlier reporting on AirTag stalking crimes, to attempt to clarify the seriousness of the scenario. “Judges and officers do not know sufficient about AirTags… and in felony legislation, it is more durable to show [intent] past an inexpensive doubt on the perpetrators as a result of there is not any arduous proof that they’re in actual fact stalking, particularly once you’ve been in a relationship with this particular person otherwise you share a baby with this particular person,” Dozier mentioned.

And talking out as a goal of stalking—particularly in instances of home abuse—can put the sufferer at extra danger than earlier than. Dozier defined why she felt it was vital to talk on the document about her personal expertise. “You had requested if I want to have my identify utilized in your interview and I’ve determined that I’m prepared to share my story,” she instructed me. “If I get nothing out of this, and this choose lifts that restraining order—or, say he does not—my identify will nonetheless be on this as anyone who was a part of this and I am nonetheless standing up for each different girl who comes into the identical scenario and the choose does nothing,” she mentioned.


In April, Motherboard obtained information requests mentioning AirTags from eight of the largest police departments throughout the nation. Nearly all of studies got here from girls; of the 50 that reported discovering out they had been being tracked via Apple’s AirTag notifications, 25 might establish a person near them, akin to an ex-partner or estranged boyfriend, that they suspected positioned the machine to comply with them.

“It was so muffled behind duct tape, a number of layers of duct tape that you could’t hear it, and it’s not apparent the place it may be discovered.”

Some targets of stalking say that even when their abuser admitted to inserting the machine on them, it’s troublesome to cost them with a criminal offense if their intentions aren’t clear to the choose. A through-line in most of the tales Motherboard heard, each in police information obtained by information requests and victims’ testimonies instructed to me, is the incompetence and unpreparedness of police within the face of stalking via technological means. 

Taylor, who requested to make use of solely their first identify for his or her security, instructed me in an e-mail that their quickly to be ex-husband admitted to inserting an AirTag on their automobile after dropping off their youngsters with him. They discovered it due to the notifications. ​​

”I filed a police report and tried to press prices, however was denied since each our names are on the title of the car,” Taylor mentioned. “I lived in one other home separate from him since October and filed for divorce. I additionally tried to get a restraining order but it surely too was denied. The legislation is unquestionably not on the sufferer’s facet in making an attempt to stop home crimes. It’s actually disheartening.” 

After launching AirTags in 2021, Apple has been incrementally implementing security measures, largely in response to person studies of stalking and harassment. An AirTag emits a chime sound when it’s removed from its proprietor; three months after AirTags got here out, Apple shortened the window for when the machine would chime if it was separated from its proprietor, from three days to between eight and 24 hours. In late 2021, Apple launched an Android app that notifies customers of AirTag following them; beforehand, Android customers wouldn’t know if an AirTag was close to them until they might hear the chime from the machine itself, which was regularly hidden, exterior of a car, or faint. In February 2022, Apple introduced extra exact monitoring of the AirTag for the particular person being tracked and louder chimes, following a New York Occasions experiment the place a journalist examined the machine’s security measures. 

Adam Dodge, founding father of on-line harassment sufferer service EndTAB, instructed me in an e-mail that though the enhancements ought to have come sooner, it’s nonetheless promising to see Apple proceed to attempt to strengthen the privateness of the machine. “The anti-stalking modifications Apple has made to AirTags—precision discovering, louder audio warnings and earlier monitoring alerts—does present they’re listening to issues concerning the abusability of their tech,” he mentioned. 

The most important drawback, Dodge mentioned, is that the continual background scanning that iPhones use to detect undesirable AirTags is not accessible to nearly all of international smartphone house owners. “Android customers should as a substitute depend on an inferior and impractical security measure within the type of Apple’s Tracker Detect App, which requires them to manually scan for undesirable AirTags,” Dodge mentioned. “The concept somebody would usually and proactively scan for AirTags is not sensible and locations an unfair security burden on anybody who does not possess an Apple machine. From a stalking security standpoint, the app is mild years away from the iOS scanning characteristic.” 

When reached for remark, Apple directed Motherboard to its posts about AirTags and undesirable monitoring, what to do in case you get an alert that an AirTag is with you, and how to ensure a member of the family has a novel Apple ID.

Even with all these added privateness upgrades, it’s nonetheless not sufficient, particularly when these updates are simply evaded by abusers. Dozier mentioned that the chime coming from the AirTag positioned by her ex husband was so faint, it was undetectable for months. “It was similar to one [beep] after which it might go away,” she mentioned. “It was so muffled behind duct tape, a number of layers of duct tape that you could’t hear it, and it’s not apparent the place it may be discovered. It’s not apparent, like an alert or an alarm. It is extra like, ‘Hello, I am right here.’”

One other girl who contacted Motherboard after our April story (whose identify we’re withholding for her security) instructed me that her estranged husband wrapped an AirTag in a towel to muffle the sound of it pinging, and hid it inside her car. “Individuals who share clouds with spouses are at higher danger as a result of the AirTags don’t alert as a result of it’s technically with the proprietor,” she claimed. “It was my pal’s telephone that was alerted that we’d been adopted by a tag all day.” She mentioned that when she known as Apple for assist, they instructed her that individuals don’t use these for nefarious causes. 

Taylor mentioned that they’re glad Apple notified them of the AirTag following them, however believes that the system doesn’t shield victims of stalking sufficient. “I want the legal guidelines had been extra proactive fairly than reactive,” Taylor mentioned. “Why do issues want to return to violence earlier than any authorized motion might be taken? He was mainly proven he can do what he desires with no repercussions. Fortunately he hasn’t escalated additional since but it surely’s irritating simply the identical to invade somebody’s privateness and it’s not ‘dangerous sufficient’ within the eyes of the legislation.” 

Godsoe famous that when stalking or harassment reaches this stage—the place individuals worry for his or her security and attain out to legislation enforcement or attempt to take authorized motion—it has usually escalated to some extent of significant hazard. And these behaviors can begin younger; one in 12 youngsters have skilled courting or sexual violence. 

“The one possible way that has ever confirmed efficient to deal with intimate violence or household violence is schooling,” Godsoe mentioned. “Beginning actually younger, round consent, about your physique, about intercourse, touching—and that is in fact, what most locations in America don’t educate in any respect. In order that’s actually unhappy… There’s a increased correlation of kids who grew up in households the place this occurs, which might be significantly extra more likely to be a sufferer or offender themselves, alongside these gender strains. It is actually an intergenerational drawback.”

Because the police information confirmed in Motherboard’s April reporting—and as statistics on home violence display—restraining orders, or orders of safety, can solely achieve this a lot to stop an abusive particular person from following or approaching the holder. 

“In a baby’s thoughts, you by no means know what is going on on, however I feel for so far as having it out within the open, to know that their father would do one thing like that, to have the ability to comply with their mother? It is scary. It is scary to them to see me scared,” she mentioned. “I must placed on a robust face for them. There’s some issues you’ll be able to’t conceal from youngsters. And as soon as they’re concerned in issues like household court docket, it is of their faces on a regular basis. So for him to place his youngsters on this place and say okay, I am gonna comply with your mother, and additional these court docket points… it is not wholesome.” 

On November 10, a couple of week after our most up-to-date telephone name, Dozier acquired a discover of the outcomes of her request for a restraining order in opposition to her ex. The letter got here from the San Diego County District Lawyer’s Workplace, signed by Deputy District Lawyer Jessica Stehr. “We’re unable to file felony prices at the moment,” Stehr wrote. The rest of the letter included hyperlinks to the North County Household Justice Middle, in addition to a hyperlink to San Diego County home violence sufferer sources, and a telephone quantity for acquiring a sufferer advocate.  

“I’m so dissatisfied,” Dozier mentioned within the following textual content message. “It’s disheartening to know anybody particular person can stalk you want this and there’s no crime on this. It will backfire when somebody will get harm.” 

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