A new measure will make AirTag stalking illegal

A new measure will make AirTag stalking illegal

Tech Highlights:

  • Family believes Akron mother was stalked, emotionally abused before ex-boyfriend killed her In Feb., News 5 reported on a 29-year-old West Park woman who said a device was following her but fell off her car before she found it. She said she did find double-sided tape underneath her back bumper.  Apple AirTag placed unknowingly on West Park woman’s car, tracked her location for hour. But even if someone took a device like that to police, they may not be able to do much. “Right now, in Ohio, that’s not a law,” Rep. Tom Patton, a Republican from Strongsville, said. “It’s not a crime.” Two Northeast Ohio lawmakers say as technology advances, laws need to keep up.

  • A new bipartisan measure introduced in the Ohio House would make tracking another person or their property without their agreement a felony, similar to how an Apple AirTag works. AirTags are Bluetooth monitoring devices that may be quite beneficial in helping owners discover their lost keys or where they parked their car. However, according to law authorities, some have been utilising the gadgets with far more sinister intents. Heidi Moon, who was murdered in Akron in January, believed she was being followed. She contacted an investigator, who informed News 5 that he discovered an AirTag in her vehicle.

“There wasn’t anything that they could do to hold this person accountable for,” Rep. Emilia Sykes, a Democrat from Akron, said. The lawmakers introduced House Bill 672, which would prohibit installing a tracking device on another person’s property without consent. “Like in any new electronic creation, there’s some bad effects to it and some bad actors, miscreants will come out and they’ll use these AirTags for human trafficking or stalking,” Patton said.

There is also an exemption for when consent is automatically revoked. For example, if a couple separates or divorces, that consent is immediately revoked in order to ensure that people are remaining safe as relationships are changing, Skyes added. The legislators say they were both stunned that this loophole existed, but Ray Ku, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, said the language is tricky. “Interfering with someone’s body or property without their consent would generally be either trespass or battery,” Ku said. “So if I put a tag on your car, ‘I’m actually trespassing on your car’ versus ‘you don’t really have a right unless you have an expectation of privacy.’

With the increase of technology in which people can use them for not only good but evil, legislators have to be adjusting to those types of technology in order to make sure people feel safe and secure, Sykes said. Under the proposed bill, violators could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. There are some exceptions, such as the majority of cases with parents and minors, law enforcement or a caregiver for an elderly individual. “We have to be mindful of privacy rights and constitutional rights, and we don’t want to infringe upon that,” Sykes said.

He explains there is a potential argument that there is no privacy expectation since the information gathered from the Tag could be the same as from just seeing the individual in public. “The actual recording or monitoring of where you are isn’t and couldn’t necessarily be actually made an offense,” Ku said, citing current law. Ku specializes in constitutional law, internet law and data privacy. The bill is a good start, but he thinks it could be broader.

“Without focusing on the specific technology or the way it’s specifically embodied right now, we would be more concerned with the general idea of someone monitoring your location through any device — electronic or otherwise, known today or developed in the future, without your consent,” he said. “The main idea was we want to protect ourselves from being essentially stalked or trailed or otherwise surveilled everywhere we go.”

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