A Tennessee family visiting Walt Disney World got a frightening reminder of the power of cell phones, saying that their movements inside the park had been tracked by someone with access to an Apple AirTag device on their daughter’s phone.
Jennifer Gaston told Fox 35 Orlando that her daughter Madison received a notification on her iPhone as the family was riding the monorail back to the parking lot. The notification showed someone had tracked everywhere Madison had gone between 7:09 p.m. and 11:33 p.m., including the ride back to the parking lot.
“We were terrified, we were confused, hurt, and scared,” Gaston said, adding of her daughter, “She literally watched it follow us from the tram all the way back to our vehicle.”
Once the family believed they had been tracked, they unsuccessfully looked inside their car for the AirTag, then locked the doors, exited the parking lot and informed police, but Madison kept checking her phone to see where the device was.
“As she was refreshing it, it showed the AirTag was still in our parking spot so somehow when we were frantically shaking out clothes and dumping everything out of our bags it fell out,” Gaston recalled.
Apple writes on its website, “AirTag is a supereasy way to keep track of your stuff. Attach one to your keys. Put another in your backpack. And just like that, they’re on your radar in the Find My app, where you can also track down your Apple devices and keep up with friends and family.”
“We’ve become aware that individuals can receive unwanted tracking alerts for benign reasons, such as when borrowing someone’s keys with an AirTag attached, or when traveling in a car with a family member’s AirPods left inside,” Apple wrote, admitting, “We also have seen reports of bad actors attempting to misuse AirTag for malicious or criminal purposes.”
“When survivors and advocates warned Apple that AirTags were dangerous, the company refused to listen. They claimed that their technical fixes would prevent abuse,” Albert Fox, the executive director of Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) has warned. “Today, we see that they’re wrong and that AirTags are being abused in exactly the way we feared.”
“This story could have ended way differently,” Jennifer Gaston said. “I’m praising God we have the outcome we have, but it’s because she was diligent and aware of what to do.”