Finding the tracking device, painted with marker and wrapped in plastic, left him feeling “terrified,” according to court records.
On Monday, Hughes and a second unnamed woman filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple, saying the company failed to make its AirTags “anti-talker,” despite concerns from domestic violence advocates when the technology was released last year. The lawsuit in the Northern District of California accuses Apple of negligence, design defects and breach of privacy, among other claims.
“Ms. Hughes continues to fear for her safety – not least because her stalker has proven committed to continuing to use AirTags to track, harass and threaten her, and continues to use AirTags to locate her,” he said.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment directly on the lawsuit, instead pointing to a February statement about “unwanted tracking” with AirTags, which the company said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms.” Apple now has information on what to do with an AirTag alert, including tapping the notification to listen to the device and locate it.
Since AirTags were introduced in April 2021 to make it easier for people to find their belongings like wallets and luggage, critics have pointed out that Bluetooth-enabled devices could be used by predators.
Even with those warnings, the lawsuit says, Apple “recklessly moved forward, dismissing concerns” before and after the technology’s release.
According to the complaint, the two plaintiffs are both victims of stalking and are suing on behalf of themselves and “those who are at risk of being stalked through this dangerous product.”
Hughes, who lives in Travis County, Tex., said in the lawsuit that her ex-girlfriend began stalking her in August 2021 after they broke up. The complaint alleges that his ex-daughter created fake accounts to stalk him posted their text conversations on social networks and left threatening voicemails to him.
He also allegedly left a package containing photographs of Hughes at his apartment. Along with the package came a handwritten note with Hughes’ name at the top that ended: “Thank you. This is goodbye,” according to the photos included in the lawsuit.
By October of last year, Hughes allegedly decided to live in the hotel until he moved into a new home. After Hughes found the AirTag in his car, the lawsuit says, Apple Store employees he consulted told him they “couldn’t tell” how long the device had been there.
Hughes said in the lawsuit that police told her all they could do was to shut up and give up on her ex.
A second plaintiff in the case, a woman identified as “Jane Doe” from Kings County, NY, said she was also tracked by an ex using AirTag. After a “contentious divorce,” Doe said, his ex-wife allegedly began asking him where and when he went with the child.
She found an AirTag in the child’s backpack this summer and tried to get rid of it, but soon found another one in the same bag, the complaint said. The woman could not confirm whether her ex-husband placed the devices there, but said in the lawsuit that she feared for his safety regardless.
The lawsuit seeks damages against the two plaintiffs others like them, as well as an injunction to prevent Apple from “further unlawful, unfair and/or fraudulent practices in the design, manufacture and marketing of its AirTags.”
“With a price point of just $29, it has become the weapon of choice for stalkers and abusers,” the lawsuit states.
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