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New law criminalizes using tracking device on someone without their knowledge

Senate Enrolled Act 161, signed by Governor Eric Holcomb on May 4, makes it a Class A Misdemeanor to use a tracking device on someone without their consent
Posted at 10:14 AM, May 05, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS— A new law will take effect July 1 that will make it a crime to track someone without their knowledge.

It’s an update to a problem WRTV Investigates uncovered— people using Apple AirTags, Tile devices and Find My iPhone to stalk people.

Senate Enrolled Act 161, signed by Governor Eric Holcomb on May 4, makes it a Class A Misdemeanor to use a tracking device on someone without their consent.

However, prosecutors could increase the crime to a felony in certain situations.
Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, authored the legislation.

“The prosecutor has the opportunity on a separate charging document to file enhancements to felonies if the person that's tracked has a crime committed against them or there is serious bodily injury involved,” said Crider. “I had an incident in my district where a woman in my district Millie Parke was tracked and attacked brutally."

In Indianapolis, Marion County prosecutors say Andre Smith’s ex-girlfriend used an Apple AirTag to track Smith to Tilly’s Pub.

PREVIOUS | AirTags used to stalk people in Indiana, police reports show

“It’s mind-boggling, and it’s creepy,” Reneka Day, the aunt of Andre Smith, said. “He was 26 years old. Very humble and soft-spoken.”

Court records allege Smith’s ex-girlfriend ran him over with her car in Tilly’s Pub parking lot, killing him.

“She shouldn't have been able to find him at all,” Day said. “They need to do something about it, because it's causing more crime than it is helpful to the public."

Day said Apple AirTags and other tracking devices should not be for sale for the general public.

“If you’re using it for law enforcement or medical purposes, yes, but it should not be available on Amazon for the public to purchase and use,” Day said.

Senator Crider hopes the new law will send a message to people with ill intent.

“It's technology that can be useful, but can be really scary depending on the intent of the user,” said Crider. “I'm hopefully stories like you've done and will continue to do will tell young ladies this is possible, and that awareness will hopefully help them make sure they're not a victim of unlawful tracking."

Senator Crider hopes the new law will make a difference.

“I have talked to a number of people who experienced tracking and I know how scary that could be,” said Crider.

In a statement, Apple emphasized its AirTags should not be used to track people.

“AirTag was designed to help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or another person’s property, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products,” the Apple statement read. “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.”

WRTV Investigates decided to put Apple’s alert system to the test.

We spent $100 on a four-pack of AirTags and found four WRTV employees who agreed to be tracked.

When WRTV activated the AirTag, we received a message reminding us “AirTag is intended solely to track items that belong to you. Using AirTag to track people without their consent is a crime in many regions around the world.”

We tracked Rachael, Andrew, Katie and Brittany as they worked and drove around.

Five hours after we placed the device, Rachael got an alert on her iPhone that an AirTag was nearby, but she didn’t get the alert until after she’d arrived home.

Same thing happened to Katie, who got a notification at home after six hours of being tracked.

Andrew’s iPhone did not notify him until 24 hours later.

Brittany’s Android phone did not warn her about the AirTag, until she downloaded the “Tracker Detect” app.

Once they received alerts, our WRTV employees could press “Play Sound.”

This allows you to find the AirTag and notify the police, if necessary.

An iPhone running iOS 14.5 or later can recognize if an AirTag is traveling with you over time and will send you a proactive alert when you arrive home—as defined in your contacts “Me” card—or your iPhone will recognize you’re home based on your travel patterns.

Apple says you should still be alerted at the end of the day, even if you happen to be away from home.

More Information from Apple on Preventing Unwanted Tracking

If any AirTag, AirPods, or other Find My network accessory separated from its owner is seen moving with you over time, you'll be notified in one of two ways. These features were created specifically to discourage people from trying to track you without your knowledge.

  • If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, Find My will send a notification to your Apple device. This feature is available on iOS or iPadOS 14.5 or later. To receive alerts, make sure that you:
    • Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and turn Location Services on.
    • Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services. Turn Find My iPhone on.
    • Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services. Turn Significant Locations on to be notified when you arrive at a significant location, such as your home. 
    • Go to Settings > Bluetooth, and turn Bluetooth on. 
    • Go to the Find My app, tap the Me tab, and turn Tracking Notifications on.
    • Turn off airplane mode. If your device is in airplane mode, you won't receive tracking notifications.
  • If you don't have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, an AirTag that isn't with its owner for a period of time will emit a sound when it's moved. This type of notification isn't supported with AirPods.

For more information on how to prevent unwanted tracking with AirTags, click here.