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3 states propose legislation in response to AirTag stalking

Apple’s AirTag seems like a great idea in concept, but following numerous reports of the devices at the center of stalking cases, three U.S. states have proposed new legislation for the tags. Pennsylvania proposed a bill in January that seeks to “prohibit Apple AirTags from being used outside of their intended use as a locator for misplaced personal items” and now Ohio and New Jersey have followed the state’s lead.

Both Ohio and New Jersey have brought new bills to their respective tables over the past week looking to prohibit the non-consensual tracking of individuals with some exceptions made for the guardians of minors and the elderly and select law enforcement cases. The two bills, as first reported by Android Police, seem likely to be passed as they’ve both received bipartisan support, but have raised many questions regarding GPS tracking and the law.

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Apple AirTag close up.

Many would assume that non-consensual GPS tracking is illegal as it would fall under previously established anti-stalking laws, however, some states don’t have any legislation in place to prohibit such activities. In Ohio, GPS stalking isn’t necessarily un-lawful depending on a handful of factors, but the proposed House Bill 672 looks to change that.

Stalking laws in general often feature numerous loopholes that are frequently exploited, but the proposed legislation in Ohio and New Jersey looks to make GPS tracking laws much stricter. The bills don’t just prohibit the use of Apple AirTags to track an unsuspecting person’s location, but all remote GPS devices regardless of manufacturer or complexity.

Apple has attempted to get ahead of the stalking issues through software that alerts iOS devices when they’re traveling for an extended period of time with unrecognized AirTags, however, there are already plenty of ways (one such example here) to get around the company’s safeguards. The new legislation, however, serves as a deterrent to reduce the cases of stalking through GPS trackers like the AirTag and the Tile.

U.S. legislation is frequently behind the times when it comes to tech-related issues, but now that three states have come forward with well-received anti-GPS-stalking bills, it seems like just a matter of time for other states to follow in their footsteps.

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Automatic Smart tag tracker detection in works for Android
Apple AirTag lifestyle image.

Google is reportedly working on a feature that will allow your Android device to detect smart trackers in close vicinity. Folks at 9to5Google spotted the functionality while decompiling the Play services APK. According to them, Google began working on the feature in March of this year. The capability was found to be integrated with the Google Play services, which should enable availability for a wide range of Android phones.

Apple already has “Tracker Detect” for Android that allows users to find nearby AirTags, while Tile released a similar feature recently. Now, Google plans to integrate the tag-scanning feature into Android. Hence, in the future, you will not need to have a separate app for this feature as functionality will come built into Android itself.

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Tile rolls out anti-stalking tool in wake of AirTags scandal
Tile Pro white on key.

Tile has just announced a new feature coming to its iOS and Android apps called Scan and Secure. It aims to help users keep abreast of attempts to surveil and track them using Tile's trackers. This move comes after Apple has faced criticism over its own AirTags being used in incidents of theft or stalking globally.

Tile's new Scan and Secure feature is available as part of the Tile app with a Tile account not being required. Once installed, you're able to run the tool and let it manually detect if there's a Tile-enabled device on you somewhere. The company notes that tracking people without their knowledge is against its terms of service, adding that it may also be illegal in many regions.

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Apple update adds more antistalking tools to AirTags
Apple Air tag

Apple is rolling out more antistalking tools with the next update to iOS 15, coming in the next few weeks, according to a report from MacRumors. The new update will include messaging to warn users that stalking with AirTags is a crime, as well as other features that will make it more obvious when an AirTag is traveling with you.

These changes are relatively small, but they are the first of a few changes Apple had promised would be coming down the line. "Unwanted tracking has long been a societal problem, and we took this concern seriously in the design of AirTag. It’s why the Find My network is built with privacy in mind, uses end-to-end encryption, and why we innovated with the first-ever proactive system to alert you of unwanted tracking. We hope this starts an industry trend for others to also provide these sorts of proactive warnings in their products," Apple said in a blog post.

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