Tuesday, December 6, 2022

AirTag Stalking Class Action Lawsuit

Ashley Belanger (Hacker News, MacRumors):

Confronted by police reports and concerns from privacy advocates, Apple released updates in February, claiming that new features would mitigate reported stalking risks. Stalking reports kept coming, though, and it increasingly seemed to victims that Apple had not done enough to adequately secure AirTags. Now, Apple is being sued by two women who claim that the company is still marketing a “dangerous” product.


Plaintiffs suing represent various stalked classes. They are asking for a jury to assess whether, in addition to injunctive relief and damages, Apple should owe punitive damages for allegedly releasing a defective product with insufficient safeguards to prevent stalking, then profiting off sales after allegedly misleading the public to believe AirTags were “stalker-proof.”


One of the earliest solutions from Apple was providing text-based notifications for iOS users, alerting them when there was an “AirTag Found Moving With You.” However, users couldn’t always trust this alert was accurate—or referring to an AirTag device located near them in a crowd—and they couldn’t always find the tracking device, even if they knew it existed. For Android users, the situation was even bleaker because Apple had no way to send automatic alerts. Android users, thus, became “nearly defenseless to tracking/stalking using an AirTag,” because the only way to find out was to proactively download an app called Tracker Detect and manually search for AirTags.

It doesn’t seem to me that the product is defective or that there’s something Apple should be doing but isn’t. There’s no way to fully prevent malicious uses, and they already made AirTag less useful in trying to reduce them.


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>and they already made AirTag less useful in trying to reduce them.

And more - IMHO, they effectively made them nearly useless for my purposes. I want to use them to track my cars and ebikes, and protect against theft, but:

* They can only be owned by a single user, not by a family.
* They alert everyone else in the family every time they are in the same car.
* They alert the person stealing the bike to their existence.

I get **why** this is done to protect against stalking, but it is definitely an understatement to say "they already made AirTag less useful in trying to reduce" the issue.

> It doesn’t seem to me that the product is defective or that there’s something Apple should be doing but isn’t.

One could argue that they shouldn’t have introduced the product at all. Just because they have the technology to make it—and it *is* a good product, by certain criteria—doesn’t mean that bringing it to market is a morally neutral action.

The lack of family ownership takes away from the anti-stalking features. And their general usefulness of course.

Typical scenario: I’m driving my wife’s car and her keys have an AirTag assigned to her. I get the alert and I ignore it as I was trained to. If someone was tracking my wife’s car I would never know. If the AirTag was shared by both of us I wouldn’t be trained to ignore the alerts.

That’s not to say that Apple deserves a lawsuit for this. Tile designed an equivalent product with zero anti-stalking measures. The reason they didn’t get sued is because their product sucked (because of a sparse user network) and Apple‘a actually works surprisingly well.

It is generally considered a bad idea for a privacy-focused company to sell tracking technology for several reasons. First, selling tracking technology goes against the company's core principles of protecting people's privacy. This can damage the company's reputation and make it difficult for the company to retain customers who value privacy.

Second, selling tracking technology can also open the company up to legal liabilities. For example, if the tracking technology is used for nefarious purposes, the company may be held responsible for enabling or facilitating these actions.

Third, selling tracking technology can also create security risks. The technology may be vulnerable to hacking or other forms of attack, which could result in sensitive data being accessed or stolen.

Overall, selling tracking technology goes against the values and principles that a privacy-focused company should uphold, and can lead to legal and security problems.

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