Residents of Renton, Washington have reported several recent incidents of suspected stalking enabled by Apple’s AirTag tracking devices. The Renton Police Department (RPD) issued a warning this week after detecting a pattern in stalking cases potentially involving the coin-sized Bluetooth trackers.
AirTags Allow Tracking of Belongings – And Sometimes More
Released in 2021, AirTags are intended to help Apple device owners locate lost items like keys or wallets. AirTags utilize Apple’s vast “Find My” network and Bluetooth connections to relay their location back to the paired iPhone.
While AirTags provide peace of mind for those prone to misplacing items, their tracking capabilities have also raised concerns about potential misuse for stalking or unwanted surveillance.
Earlier this year, reports began to surface of AirTags being discovered in strangers’ vehicles and personal belongings. Apple responded by updating AirTags with new privacy features, but issues persist.
Renton Police Investigating Multiple Suspected Stalking Cases
The RPD first noticed a trend of possible AirTag stalking incidents over the summer. After an additional string of reports in early January, the department decided to issue a public warning.
“It’s very concerning – kind of scary actually,” said RPD Communications Manager Sandra Havlik.
In one suspected case, a woman continued finding an unknown AirTag tracking her movements over several weeks before finally locating it zipped into a compartment of her purse.
Another Renton resident remembered their iPhone alerting about an “Unknown Accessory Detected” while driving. After searching the vehicle, they discovered an AirTag taped inside the bumper.
“It seems the targets of these stalking cases range from estranged spouses to random victims,” Havlik said. “We want people to be aware this is happening right here in our neighborhoods.”
The RPD did not provide an exact number of suspected AirTag stalking cases under investigation. However, Havlik indicated it has become a priority issue over the past 6-8 months.
AirTags Hard for Android Users to Detect
One challenge with identifying unwanted AirTags is limitations around Android device detection. AirTags emit Bluetooth signals that trigger alerts to nearby iPhones. But most Android devices do not receive these alerts automatically.
This means Android users are far less likely to be tipped off about an unknown AirTag tracking their location. According to Sandra Havlik:
“They have no way of being notified that there’s an AirTag tracking their location. So that’s very scary.”
In response, Apple has provided some guidance for Android users concerned about unwanted tracking. This includes deploying the “Tracker Detect” app which can scan for tracking devices. However, this places the onus on potential stalking victims to be proactively vigilant.
RPD Offers Safety Recommendations While Investigating
As Renton Police work to track down suspects misusing AirTags, they advise all residents to take precautions:
- Be aware of your surroundings and look for any unknown devices, electronics, or packages placed in or on your vehicle
- Thoroughly search purses, bags, clothing, and other items for hidden devices after periods of separation from them
- Use Apple’s “Find My” app to periodically scan for AirTags traveling with you
- Android users should install and run the “Tracker Detect” app regularly
- Immediately contact 911 if an unknown AirTag or tracking device is discovered
For victims of domestic violence or stalking, the RPD encourages reaching out for help:
- Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- Visit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence website for local resources
- Consider filing for a protection or restraining order from local courts
Apple Faces Mounting Pressure as AirTag Issues Continue
Apple initially marketed AirTags as a breakthrough solution to lost item frustration. However, the company now grapples with growing backlash as AirTags enable new forms of stalking and violate personal privacy.
Beyond Renton, suspected stalking cases involving AirTags continue mounting across the United States. Last month, the Westchester Intelligence Center cataloged 16 active cases of unwanted tracking in their New York county. Sports Illustrated model Brooks Nader and several Los Angeles women reported finding surreptitious AirTags on their vehicles.
In response, Apple upgraded AirTags with more prominent alert sounds when separated from their owner. The company also reduced the window for AirTags to play a sound from three days down to a random time between eight and 24 hours.
However, legislators may push Apple to implement more stringent protections. Proposed bills in several states would outright ban electronic tracking without consent. Others require tracking device companies to enable precise GPS monitoring by law enforcement.
For now, Renton Police urge citizens to proceed with added awareness, caution, and vigilance while they work to apprehend suspects exploiting AirTags. With proper precautions though, the department hopes to curb this emerging local threat.
Ongoing Coverage as More Details Emerge
This remains an emerging situation with many unknowns. As the Renton Police Department continues investigating suspected AirTag stalking incidents, more information will likely come to light.
Residents should monitor local media and RPD social channels for updates. As the story develops, this article will be revised with additional confirmed details about victims, arrests, Apple’s response, and any other relevant news.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.