In Brief

Using tracking devices without someone’s consent should be a crime, N.J. lawmakers say

By: - May 9, 2022 7:04 am

Police say Apple AirTags and similar bluetooth devices have been increasingly used with malicious intent to track people without their knowledge. (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

Apple AirTags are intended to give people a way to keep track of things they often misplace, like wallets and keys. But increasingly, those small tracking devices are being used to stalk people and commit other crimes, and legislators want to make that illegal. 

“There’s all kinds of great uses of this technology of tracking — your packages, your furniture being shipped across the country, seeing your family on Find My Friends — but what happens with good inventions if people start using them for things other than good,” said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester). 

Moriarty is sponsoring a bill (A1549) that would make it a fourth-degree crime to use a tracking device on someone without their consent. No statute currently exists that makes tracking a crime, he said. 

The Apple AirTag is a $29 disc about the size of a quarter that can be attached to nearly anything and tracked through an iPhone. Since their launch in 2021, police say AirTags and similar devices have been used for nefarious reasons, like tracking young women. Police have also reported instances of car thefts using AirTags. 

In January, New Jersey State Police warned local police officers the tracking devices could pose an “inherent threat to law enforcement, as criminals could use them to identify officers’ sensitive locations,” according to ABC News.

Apple issued a statement in February saying incidents of Airtag misuse are “rare” but that the company is working with law enforcement to help guard against unwanted tracking.

Moriarty’s measure exempts tracking devices used by law enforcement agencies or by parents and guardians tracking their own children. 

The bill is up for a vote in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee Monday. Moriarty is urging lawmakers to pass the bill before the problem becomes more prevalent in New Jersey. 

“In the last couple of months, people have come forward, especially young women, that said they were being tracked and had no idea who was doing it. They found it in their purse or on their car, and that’s alarming enough,” he said.

Six other states — California, Hawaii, Florida, Minnesota, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Virginia — have similar laws prohibiting the use of tracking devices to find someone’s location without their consent. Seven states, including Connecticut and New York, include location tracking under the state’s stalking laws, and nine states ban installing tracking devices on vehicles without the owner’s consent.

Under New Jersey’s bill, people convicted of using a tracking device to know where another person is without their consent would face 18 months in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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