SILVER SPRING, Md. — Apple AirTags are promoted as a convenient way to keep track of your belongings but concerns about the safety of the devices are growing.
AirTags send out Bluetooth signals that can be detected by nearby Apple devices. But increasingly the devices are being used for nefarious purposes and dozens of people are taking to social media claiming they’re being tracked by an AirTag.
Kimberly Joseph was sitting in her car outside her home in Silver Spring, Md. when a notification popped up on her iPhone. It said, "Your current location can be seen by the owner of this item."
"I was afraid that I was about to become a statistic," she said. "I was afraid I was going to become another missing dead Black girl."
When she realized a tiny tracking device around the size of a quarter—an AirTag—pinpointed her location, she wondered who would want to hurt her and who would want to follow her.
For Joseph, it was one of the scariest situations of her life. She went to Montgomery County's 4th District Police Station for help but said she was met with “disbelief and dismissal” when she asked for help searching her car.
Joseph isn't the only victim looking for answers. Now some state lawmakers in Maryland are hoping to help victims of AirTag tracking.
Whether or not using this technology to track someone is legal depends on your state's stalking law, which can be complicated to figure out.
Here's how DC's Code 22-3133 and Virginia's law define stalking.
The current stalking laws in Maryland -- where Joseph lives -- point to whether or not the person has malicious intent. Right now, lawmakers are addressing that issue.
Del. J. Sandy Bartlett (D-Md. 32) is sponsoring HB0148 which updates the definition of stalking, by also making it illegal to use a device that can pinpoint or track someone's location without their knowledge or consent.
As with any emerging technology, there's a learning curve.
For example, when WUSA9 reviewed Prince William County Police body camera video from two incidents where people called law enforcement to report they were being tracked by an AirTag, officers can be heard trying to help, but are unfamiliar with the technology or what to do about it.
We brought the issue to Montgomery County Police Commander Nicholas Augustine, who leads the 4th District -- where Joseph went for help.
"This is a new issue that's affecting our community," he said.
Augustine went on to explain that the county is working on developing guidance to train its officers on this topic.
"A lot of our officers might know about AirTags," Augustine said. "Some of them might never have even heard of it, so it's good to give everyone an aspect that this is an issue that's facing the community."
Police departments have also told WUSA9 there could be a positive to these devices. If you put one on your car or in your purse and they're taken, officers can use the AirTag to find the stolen items.
A spokesperson for Apple said AirTags have features that "discourage unwanted tracking" by informing users "if an unknown AirTag might be with them."
"If users ever feel their safety is at risk, they are encouraged to contact local law enforcement who can work with Apple to provide any available information about the unknown AirTag," the statement read.
Apple recently updated its Personal Safety User Guide which explains how Android users can download Apple's Tracker Detect in Google Play to check for nearby AirTags.
Joseph ultimately hasn’t found an unknown AirTag on any of her belongings, which she finds concerning.
"I still feel really vulnerable and I'm double checking that my doors are locked," she said. "I'm looking over my shoulder."
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