Lawsuit claiming Apple's negligence means AirTags are 'the weapon of choice of stalkers and abusers' must go ahead, judge rules

AirTag on keychain
(Image credit: Future)

While some might well argue that Apple's AirTag is the best Bluetooth item tracker on the market, the little white and silver puck has had its detractors in recent years. Designed to help people keep tabs on their wallets, bags, car keys, and more, AirTags have also become an increasing privacy problem for people and now Apple finds itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit as a result.

The lawsuit alleging that Apple hasn't done enough to protect people and their property from the misuse of its AirTag item tracker has been rumbling on for a little while, but a US District Judge has now ruled that Apple's attempts to have it dismissed will not be successful and the company must instead defend itself. The lawsuit was filed by three dozen people, arguing that Apple could be legally liable under California law when its tracking devices are misused.

However, only three of the claims were deemed to have potential merit with all of them claiming that when they were stalked, the problems with the AirTag’s safety features were substantial, and that those safety defects caused their injuries,” US District Judge Vince Chhabria said on Friday. Apple argues that the AirTag makes use of "industry-first" safety features to help ensure people are aware when an AirTag is being used to track them.

Find My anything

AirTags have proven to be exceptionally good at finding items when they're lost, whether that be luggage on the other side of the world or keys down the side of the sofa. But it soon became apparent after the tracker's launch that it could also be used to track people, too. There have been countless reports of women finding that AirTags have been used to follow them while men report finding them attached to their cars, seemingly to allow thieves to steal them at a later date. Some argue that the AirTag's impressive accuracy and relatively cheap $29 price point make it a strong option for wrongdoers.

For its part, Apple has rolled out upgrades to the Find My network in an attempt to make it easier for people to identify rogue AirTags. They will be alerted should an unknown AirTag be traveling with them, for example, and there is work ongoing between Apple and Google to bake similar features into iOS and Android as well. Those features will work with multiple item trackers, not just AirTags. The lawsuit claims that the measures currently in place are insufficient to keep people safe.

But for now, Apple could be on the hook if it's found to be liable for any wrongdoing carried out by people using its accessories. Or, it might not, with the judge making it clear that it won't be until after the case is heard that we will know the full story.

“Apple may ultimately be right that California law did not require it to do more to diminish the ability of stalkers to use AirTags effectively, but that determination cannot be made at this early stage,” Bloomberg reports the judge as having said when allowing the three plaintiffs' claims to progress.

AirTag competitor Tile is also facing similar issues with its own trackers and while people being able to find their lost items is undoubtedly a positive thing, it's increasingly clear that accessories like these will continue to be misused. Now it's up to the legal process to decide whether that's something Apple should shoulder the blame for, or not.

More from iMore

Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • Just_Me_D
    This is frivolous, at best in my opinion. People will always be able to use a good thing for a bad purpose. Take a trash bag for example. It is meant to hold “trash”, however, that same trash bag can be used to suffocate someone. Will people sue the maker of the trash bag because one was used to commit murder?
    Reply
  • Annie_M
    This latest lawsuit is completely ridiculous!
    Reply
  • Lee_Bo
    Just_Me_D said:
    This is frivolous, at best in my opinion. People will always be able to use a good thing for a bad purpose. Take a trash bag for example. It is meant to hold “trash”, however, that same trash bag can be used to suffocate someone. Will people sue the maker of the trash bag because one was used to commit murder?

    IMHO, give it time. I see that happening in the future. Manufacturers of trash bags, knives, gold clubs, bats, etc.
    Reply
  • Just_Me_D
    Lee_Bo said:
    IMHO, give it time. I see that happening in the future. Manufacturers of trash bags, knives, gold clubs, bats, etc.

    The way things are these days, I cannot doubt you.
    Reply
  • MikeFromPA
    Cases like this are nothing new. There was a time, not all that long ago, when gun companies were sued for the violence, but more so, tobacco companies ( aka Big Tobacco ) was sued on behalf of the people who ignored the warnings on every single package of tobacco sold in the US stating that the product was both hazardous and addictive, and died.

    Same with parents suing social media because the parents gave their kids a telephone babysitter instead of watching the kids themselves. It’s always somebody else’s fault.
    Reply