In recent years, the prevalence of technology has enabled abusive individuals to utilise it as a tool to monitor and control their victims. From smart home devices to social media apps, abusers have been using technology in devastating ways to gain power over their victims. AirTags have made gaining that power even easier.
AirTags can be easily hidden in personal items or attached to a vehicle without the victim's knowledge. Abusers can use them to track their victims' movements and monitor their location at all times. This has led to an increase in cases of stalking and harassment, especially against women.
One survivor shared her story of how her ex-partner had used an AirTag to stalk her for months. She noted how he would unexpectedly turn up to events and places, the victim became increasingly worried and fearful of her safety. Eventually, she found the AirTag hidden in her car, and that's when she realised what was happening.
Unfortunately, stories like hers are not uncommon. In fact, survivors of AirTag stalking have filed a lawsuit against Apple in the United States, claiming that the tech giant failed to provide adequate warning or protection against the use of its device for stalking.
In the UK, a man was recently convicted of stalking his ex-partner using an AirTag. He had hidden the device in her car and used it to monitor her movements. This landmark case highlights the growing problem of tech abuse against women and the need for legislation to catch up to treat it as seriously as other forms of abuse.
However, it is not only about holding abusers accountable, the government must also hold the tech companies accountable for the misuse of their products, and the law must recognise that AirTag stalking is a new form of VAWG that must be addressed. As it stands, UK laws around tech abuse are significantly lacking. There is no specific legislation that addresses the use of devices like AirTags for stalking or harassment leaving survivors feeling powerless and with little recourse for action.
Tech firms like Apple have a responsibility to ensure that their products are not being used for harmful purposes. While Apple has introduced some safety features to AirTags, including an alert system that notifies a user if an unknown AirTag is moving with them, there is more that can be done to prevent abuse. UK legislation needs to catch up to the reality of tech abuse.
Ultimately, the use of AirTags for stalking and harassment is a violation of a person's privacy, safety, and basic human rights. Survivors of all forms of abuse deserve to be taken seriously and have access to the support and protection they need. It's time for our laws and society to catch up with the realities of tech abuse, so that we can better protect and support survivors and hold abusers accountable for their actions.
Written by Ffion Lloyd, Head of Legal Research and Outreach at Right to Equality.