Ohio bill proposes to criminalize electronic stalking and tracking

The proposed legislation follows reports of AirTags being used for tracking without consent.
apple airtag
Legislators are cracking down on potentially harmful uses of Apple AirTags. Jonas Elia / Unsplash

A new, bipartisan bill in Ohio would criminalize the use of electronic tracking devices, like Apple AirTags or Tiles, for monitoring people without their permission. HB672, introduced in the state legislature May 13, would “prohibit a person from knowingly installing a tracking device or application on another person’s property without the other person’s consent.” 

According to WKYC, a legal “loophole” in Ohio currently allows that sort of use without penalty, as the news outlet found reporting on one such case earlier this year (though police said it could be considered a crime if the individual placing the device has a documented record of stalking or domestic violence). That specific instance involved an Apple AirTag, a small device that employs Bluetooth to provide real-time location updates. Marketed as a way to keep track of items like keys or wallets, experts have warned of their potential use for surveillance since their introduction in 2021. 

AirTags do have an iPhone feature that will alert iOS users if they are in continued close proximity to an AirTag that is not registered to them. The devices are also designed to emit sound when separated from their owners over time. Apple provides a series of steps on its website that can then be used to disable any found devices. However, an investigation from Motherboard in April revealed that incidents like the one documented in Ohio are not unusual. The article drew from eight police departments, citing dozens of reports from women concerned that AirTags were being used to follow them. 

[Related: Apple AirTag has built-in anti-stalking tech]

In a statement earlier this year, Apple said it has been working with law enforcement to address existing cases and promised an update “later this year” that will help residents more precisely locate unknown AirTags, display on-screen alerts along with louder audio warnings if an unknown AirTag is detected, and alert users faster of the device’s presence (currently, Apple says alerts are issued within eight to 24 hours) 

Ohio is not the only state responding to this issue—in January, Pennsylvania introduced AirTag-specific stalking legislation, and New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a consumer alert about it in February, calling it a felony. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists California, Virginia, Florida, and Louisiana as having laws that prohibit electronic tracking without consent, and WKYC says their research found more than a dozen other states with similar laws.