How a new Apple product may affect domestic violence cases

This week Apple finally released a long rumored tech product called Airtags, which are small circular devices that include a new type of chip that allows for easy and precise tracking.

Some may be familiar with the Tile line of products, which have been around for a while and provide a similar service.

What makes the AirTag different is that it, unlike Tile and other trackers, has the ability to talk to any of the iPhones that are tucked into the pockets of hundreds or thousands of people around it everyday.

AirTags can take advantage of Apple’s Find My network, which up to this point has only allowed tracking of other iPhones, iPads and similar devices from anywhere in the world.

Now, AirTags can be displayed in the Find My app. So while the primary use of these new devices may initially appear to be just to find your keys around the house or office, it is possible that an AirTag could be tracked remotely even hundreds of miles away from its home, given its ability to use Bluetooth signals with other devices to relay its location back to its owner.

How does all of this relate to a domestic violence situation or a family court case? We have handled a number of cases where orders of protection were entered, not because of any physical abuse, but because stalking or harassment were occurring via, for example, one spouse placing a GPS device underneath the car of the other spouse.

Now, if spouse #1 simply purchases a $29 AirTag and places it in the purse or bag of spouse #2, there can be the ability to track that spouse’s activities even more surreptitiously. And even if spouse #2 uses a non-Apple (i.e. Android) phone and does not have an Apple device, the AirTag’s ability to talk to other Apple devices that would undoubtedly surround spouse #2 as they went out in the world could allow pings back to spouse #1. In other words, the billion Apple devices that are already out in the world can help identify and track an AirTag that was unknowingly placed with you, even though that AirTag was never registered with any of those billion devices.

Fortunately, AirTags that have gone out “in the wild” away from their home and owner will eventually provide audible alerts to potentially warn someone that is being tracked. We encourage any clients or individuals who are concerned about this type of behavior to read this MacRumors article to protect themselves:

It is important if you find yourself in a difficult domestic situation to have counsel who is familiar with the various ways in which technology can be used to interfere with your life. In addition, the attorney-client privilege must be protected in any family court case. Please contact us if you wish to consult about your divorce or family law case.