Two women sued Apple on Monday over the dangers of its AirTag tracking devices in the hands of stalkers, saying the company had failed to heed warnings from advocacy groups and news reports.
The proposed class action lawsuit was filed on Monday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and accuses Apple of failing to introduce effective safeguards that would prevent stalkers from using AirTags to track people. The women said the devices had been used by their former partners to track them.
Apple introduced AirTags, which cost $29 and are about the size of a quarter, last year as a device that could be used to track personal items like keys and wallets. Other devices pick up their Bluetooth signals; some iPhone users get alerts if a nearby AirTag is moving alongside them. Advocates for survivors of domestic violence warned early on that stalkers could take advantage of the trackers.
“With a price point of just $29, it has become the weapon of choice of stalkers and abusers,” the lawsuit said.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company made changes to the products early this year after complaints, saying, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products.”
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Both plaintiffs in the lawsuit said that their former partners had used AirTags to stalk them and that they continued to fear for their safety.
The court papers said that Lauren Hughes, who lives in Travis County, Texas, learned that an AirTag was being used to track her in August 2021 after the breakup of a three-month relationship. Ms. Hughes’s stalker left her threatening voice mail messages and made abusive posts on her social media accounts.
Ms. Hughes decided to move after the stalker left items outside her apartment. While she was staying at a hotel during the move, she received a notification on her phone that an unknown AirTag was traveling with her. She found it in the wheel well of her car. After she moved, her stalker posted a photo online of a taco truck in her new neighborhood and included “#airt2.0” next to a winking face emoji in the caption, the suit said.
The second plaintiff, who lives in Kings County, N.Y., chose not to provide her name and is referred to as Jane Doe in the court papers. She found an AirTag in her child’s backpack this summer after a “contentious divorce,” and the lawsuit said that her stalker had “a commitment to continuing to use AirTags to track, harass, and threaten her.”
The lawsuit documents concerns raised by domestic violence groups, digital privacy experts and in news articles just after Apple announced the AirTag in April 2021, including a December 2021 article in The New York Times that featured interviews with seven women who believed they had been tracked with AirTags.
In February, Apple said that it would update the AirTag to make it harder for people to use them to track others without their knowledge. The changes included improving the alert system that lets people with iPhones know that an unknown AirTag is nearby.
The lawsuit said that the company’s safeguards were “woefully inadequate,” in part because they do not offer automatic protections for Android users, who must download an app to get a warning that an unknown AirTag is nearby.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for owners of iOS or Android devices who have been tracked with an AirTag or are at-risk of being stalked.