AirTags are becoming an annoying headache for Apple

Apple faces another lawsuit, but this one could define the future of AirTags. Two women who were victims of harassment with AirTags have filed a class action lawsuit against Apple in a Northern California district court. The plaintiffs cite incidents in which former classmates hid AirTags in a car wheel and in a child’s backpack to track their whereabouts and harass them.

Apple introduced AirTags in 2021. They cost $29 and connect to iPhones and iPads via Bluetooth. These small devices are used to locate on a virtual map the location of the objects to which they are attached, whether they are keys, wallets or luggage.

An Apple AirTag attached to a keychain. Photo: Getty Images.

“What sets AirTag apart from any competitive product is its unparalleled accuracy, ease of use (it integrates seamlessly with Apple’s suite of products) and affordability,” the lawsuit reads. as reflected by NPR. “At just $29, it has become the weapon of choice for bullies and abusers.”

A plaintiff alleges that, after her divorce from her ex-husband, he left an AirTag in their son’s backpack. She tried to disable it, but found another one shortly after. The other plaintiff, identified as Lauren Hughes, said that after ending a three-month relationship with a man, he began calling her from blocked numbers, created fake profiles to follow her social media accounts and left threatening voice messages.

The ordeal is harrowing, but it’s not the first of its kind. Since AirTags went on sale, reports of harassment and their use to steal cars have been on the rise. But this time, Apple has been dragged into court for a rather broad set of allegations.

Accusing Apple of gross negligence, the plaintiffs allege that the company rushed to launch a product without proper safeguards.

Design has also been criticized, with trackers not working as expected, despite Apple’s claim that AirTags are “stalker-proof”. The lawsuit mentions that “AirTag’s design flaw was a substantial factor” in causing the damage.

AirTags, released in 2021 by Apple, cost $29 and connect to iPhones and iPads via Bluetooth.  Photo: Getty Images.

AirTags, released in 2021 by Apple, cost $29 and connect to iPhones and iPads via Bluetooth. Photo: Getty Images.

Lawsuits against Apple

Among the 12 lawsuits facing Apple, the plaintiffs allege that Apple violated their privacy by geo-locating them, violated state privacy laws, and engaged in fraudulent marketing to mislead the public that AirTags are safe. The lawsuit makes it clear that “each plaintiff continues to be at risk of unwanted and unlawful tracking via an AirTag device.”

And what is more important, the lawsuit is not limited to claiming Apple for damages, but also requests injunctive relief, such as that Apple erase all the location data record of the plaintiffs and prevent them from being followed. tracking.

The plaintiffs allege that the safeguards put in place by Apple are “wretchedly inadequate.” Apple’s own security updates in the past show that it was aware of the shortcomings and was actively trying to fix them as more abusive use cases emerged. The lawsuit also highlights the security imbalance between iPhone users and those using an Android phone: the former can receive notifications that someone is spying on them with an AirTag; the seconds, no.

Harassment is also not prosecuted in the same way in all states and, in many cases, the victim receives little or no legal protection or support. In such a situation, it is Apple’s responsibility to adopt security measures that prevent this type of incident worldwide.

Until April of this year, at least 150 complaints had been filed for alleged misuse of AirTags for harassment purposes. In terms of net sales figures, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple plans to ship 35 million units worldwide. How much can Apple lose?

The lawsuit seeks that all AirTag users in the United States receive compensation that can range from $50 to $1,000. The amount of the agreement will increase depending on the number of members of the group that adhere to the lawsuit.

Assuming it ends at a loss, Apple is more than capable of dropping a few hundred million dollars to fix the problem, and has done so on multiple occasions in the past. But the bigger question is the existence of AirTag, not just as a product, but as a category.

What does this mean for the future of AirTags?

Depending on the outcome and whether the states (where the victims live) take an individual fight against Apple for the privacy and security of users, this could call into question the very existence of AirTags as a product category.

Apple is fiercely resistant to protecting an established product like iPhones and Macs from such legal challenges because they bring in billions of dollars each year. As for AirTags, they are still in their first generation phase. But the risks they have generated are much more serious, and not merely hypothetical.

It would be unwise to speculate that a single court challenge could spell the end of AirTags, but it cannot be ruled out entirely. If the cascading effect spreads to other states and more victims file lawsuits, it could happen. The possibility of an investigation by regulatory agencies, which are increasingly aware of the affairs of large technology companies under the presidency of the Federal Trade Commission, must not be ruled out. Lina Khan.

Right now, Apple has several options on the table. Wave your engineering magic wand to fix all the bugs, recall millions of units sold and replace them with better (read: more secure) upgrades, or completely rethink your strategy for the next generation of AirTag. Whatever the outcome, this lawsuit will likely be the litmus test for Apple’s coin-sized object tracker.

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