By Chakeema Cruickshank, Staff Writer
Technology can be used for immense good, but with the positives of technological advancements comes the negatives. Recently one of Apple’s newest gadgets, AirTags, is under scrutiny for how they are being used to track people and also steal vehicles. On social media, users of Reddit, TikTok, and Twitter have been telling stories of receiving notifications about nearby tags, then finding an AirTag on their car or in their belongings.
Apple AirTags, similar to Tile and other GPS trackers, are small button sized devices that can be attached to anything. This can be useful on frequently lost items such as keys and wallets to help locate items. The AirTag sends out a bluetooth signal which can be detected by other devices. iPhone users then use the “Find My” feature on their device to track the location of the item. Android users can do the same by downloading the “Tracker Detect” application.
This technology may seem harmless, however, there are many reports of the safety concerns. For instance, there are reports of these AirTags being placed on cars or slipped into purses to track individuals and steal cars. This raises questions of privacy and security, particularly for people stuck in, or trying to end, abusive relationships and may also be victims of stalking by an ex.
Apple has responded to these concerns by installing safety alerts to increase privacy and security. “To discourage being tracked without your knowledge, Find My will notify you if an unknown AirTag or other Find My network accessory is seen moving with you over time,” Apple’s website says. These alerts will notify a user if an unknown AirTag is detected. This warning will appear if the AirTag is away from the owner. This will then allow the person that received the safety alert to disable the AirTag or sound an alarm to help locate the device. One additional feature is that if an AirTag has been separated from its owner, the device will automatically sound an alarm between 8 and 24 hours.
Although these added safety measures are helpful, it is still important to know how to protect yourself. Moreover, with the time being between 8 and 24 hours, there may be a large and dangerous time lag before the alarm sounds. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself both practically and legally.
How to protect yourself:
If you are an Android user, download the “Tracker Detect” app to help your device detect unwanted GPS trackers. That way, you can still receive notifications if an unknown AirTag or tracker is found.
Always be aware of your surroundings, especially when traveling alone. If you receive a notification that an unknown device was detected, follow the onscreen instructions to disable the device.
If possible, try to safely locate the device. Some common places to look are luggage, purses, behind license plates, and other small crevices. Most importantly, contact the local authorities if needed to alert them. This way, the incident can be documented and the owner of the AirTag can be uncovered.
Apple says that every AirTag is registered with the owner’s Apple ID. This can be made available to law enforcement along with the personal information of the owner in response to a legal request, such as a subpoena. A subpoena orders a named individual to personally appear at a trial or hearing to give testimony or produce documents to be used as evidence. In New Jersey, Court Rule 1:9 governs the issuance of subpoenas. Court Rule 1:9-1 specifically states that a subpoena may be issued by the clerk of the court or by an attorney or party in the name of the clerk. But it means filing a criminal charge or a civil lawsuit. This is one legal protection if a tracker is found, however, this can potentially be costly.
Overall, some of the best ways to counter unwanted tracking is being aware and knowing how these devices work. As technology changes, it is important to be knowledgeable of how it operates and how to keep yourself safe as well.
If you or someone you know is a victim of stalking or domestic violence, check out New Jersey hotlines here or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE, visiting www.thehotline.org, or texting START to 88788.
Staff Writer Chakeema Cruickshank is currently a first year at Rutgers Law School Camden. Prior to Rutgers Law, she worked for United States Senator Robert Menendez doing constituent relations and outreach for education, environment, and technology.