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Police records show 50 out of 150 AirTag incidents involve women being stalked

AirTag battery cover
AirTag battery cover (Image credit: Joe Keller / iMore)

What you need to know

  • Motherboard has carried out analysis of police records pertaining to AirTags.
  • 50 out of 150 incidents that mentioned AirTags involved a woman being tracked by a device she didn't own.
  • 25 of those people could identify a man in their lives "who they strongly suspected planted the AirTags on their cars in order to follow and harass them."

A new report from Motherboard has revealed that 50 out of 150 police incidents involving Apple's AirTags were cases where women called the police about being tracked.

The report reviewed records from eight police departments in an eight-month period in the U.S., with some pretty chilling findings:

Of the 150 total police reports mentioning AirTags, in 50 cases women called the police because they started getting notifications that their whereabouts were being tracked by an AirTag they didn't own. Of those, 25 could identify a man in their lives—ex-partners, husbands, bosses—who they strongly suspected planted the AirTags on their cars in order to follow and harass them. Those women reported that current and former intimate partners—the most likely people to harm women overall—are using AirTags to stalk and harass them.

The report said that "most cases" involved "angry exes" including one man who slashed a woman's tires and left an Airtag in her car to track her. Another reported AirTags being attached to her car multiple times and an ex with a past of assault showing up at her locations at the same time as her. Still, another found an AirTag in her car, confronting her ex who admitted placing it there to see if she was "cheating."

The report says that multiple women filed the report stating they feared physical violence:

One woman called the police because a man she had a protective order against was harassing her with phone calls. She'd gotten notifications that an AirTag was tracking her, and could hear it chiming in her car, but couldn't find it. When the cops arrived, she answered one of his calls in front of the officer, and the man described how he would physically harm her. Another who found an AirTag in her car had been wondering how a man she had an order of protection against seemed to always know where she was. The report said she was afraid he would assault or kill her.

The report goes on to say that some of the incidents involved women still in relationships including some who were married to men who were stalking them and "became physically violent when they were confronted about the AirTags." The report says the overwhelming majority came from women, although one case did involve a man who suspected his ex-girlfriend of tracking him.

The report says that of 150 total reports, "less than half" mentioned AirTags being used as part of robberies or thefts where someone had tracked down a stolen item using an AirTag. Other stories involved people who got AirTag notifications but couldn't find the device.

One cybersecurity expert told the outlet it was "completely ridiculous" to have launched AirTags "without having taken into account its use in a domestic violence situation." However, they went on to say the reports about stalking show that Apple's mitigations are finally working:

So, yes, we did understand from the very beginning that this was going to be a major problem. But part of it I think is just reflected in the fact that stalking is a major problem. And that having the AirTag alert go off is actually something that a person can bring to the police as solid evidence, which sometimes they otherwise do not have."

In February Apple put out an update on AirTag and unwanted tracking (opens in new tab) stating:

We've become aware that individuals can receive unwanted tracking alerts for benign reasons, such as when borrowing someone's keys with an AirTag attached, or when traveling in a car with a family member's AirPods left inside. We also have seen reports of bad actors attempting to misuse AirTag for malicious or criminal purposes. Apple has been working closely with various safety groups and law enforcement agencies. Through our own evaluations and these discussions, we have identified even more ways we can update AirTag safety warnings and help guard against further unwanted tracking.

Apple has updated its alerts to try and make AirTags that don't belong to you easier to find if you do get an alert.

You can read the full report here.

Stephen Warwick
Stephen Warwick

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.

1 Comment
  • So, how many stalking incidents were reported that didn't involve AirTags, or involved some other electronic method? Not downplaying the potential for AirTags to be misused, but stalking and harassment isn't something that just started with them. At least there is a way to detect AirTags, unlike LTE based GPS trackers that can be had for $100.