You may have seen recent media reports about a new high-tech gadget that allows you to find misplaced items. The AirTag, released by Apple, describes itself as a tool that allows users to keep track of regularly used personal items such as wallets, purses, keys, luggage, and more. While many users claim the AirTag is instrumental in helping locate lost items, there have been reports of people misusing them for malicious or criminal intent. A recent report released by the New York Times reveals how some people have started using them to track their spouses, an issue that can play a significant role in family law court.
A recent New York Times article brought up the issue of spousal spying after the author claimed she used AirTags alongside other GPS trackers to track her husband. While she may have done it for journalistic purposes (and with her husband’s consent), it brought up an issue in many divorce cases. Spousal privacy is relevant in divorce cases, especially where former spouses share computers, cell phones, and cloud services. Stalking an ex-spouse is not an unheard-of crime, but now this new tool appears to help facilitate this crime. News reports have profiled people claiming they have found AirTags hiding in their car. By doing this, the person who left the AirTag can see the victim’s general location through the app on their device. There is growing concern that the device may introduce a new form of stalking, which privacy groups predicted could happen when Apple first introduced the devices.
In recent months, people have reported being stalked by a former spouse or partner by using AirTags. Earlier this year, police arrested a Texas man after his ex-spouse claimed he used an Apple Air Tag to stalk her. Prosecutors charged him with stalking, a third-degree felony. In another high-profile case, a Florida woman claims she received a notification on her phone alerting her that an Apple AirTag had been detected nearby. After a rough breakup with her former partner, she found four devices hidden in her car. A report released by Fast Company describes how the unintended consequences came with the arrival of advanced technology. While it’s an affordable and easy-to-use product that allows users to locate things quickly, AirTags are also a surveillance tool that a former spouse/partner could leverage to track someone discreetly.
According to a report by the Washington Post, Apple released an update earlier this month to the AirTags after consumers reported multiple complaints. The company installed safeguards into AirTags to warn potential victims by sending out audible alarms and messages about suspicious AirTags that pop up on iPhones when it is detected. It’s also further reducing the time it takes to notify an iPhone owner that an unknown AirTag may be traveling with them. Apple claims these changes were necessary to prevent using the device for stalking. Still, a report by The Guardian revealed that some of the alerts could be turned off, which is worrisome, especially for people who may be victims of domestic violence.
In California, recording another party without their consent or knowledge can open you to potential criminal liability. The country has enacted privacy laws, including the Stored Communications Act (SCA), the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which prohibits individuals from accessing the personal and sensitive information of others. Hacking and invading your spouse’s accounts and privacy may also constitute domestic violence under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA), which provides immediate legal protection for domestic and emotional abuse victims in the form of restraining orders.
For many, the Apple AirTag is a godsend for forgetful people to track personal items that are easily misplaced. But as helpful as technology may be, there’s a risk it could be used for nefarious purposes.
If you are getting divorced or considering a divorce and believe your spouse may be monitoring your activities, you will need a skilled attorney to handle your case. Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., handles sensitive and urgent matters such as digital privacy and spousal spying. SFLG recognizes that family law matters involve complex, sensitive issues that can have a lasting impact on you, your family, your finances and your future.
by Debra Schoenberg