Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Woman murders boyfriend after using digital tracker to discover affair

An alleged homicide in Indianapolis is raising tough questions about digital trackers that are marketed for convenience but sometimes used for stalking.  

Gaylyn Morris, who was arrested and accused of murder, allegedly told witnesses that she was tracking her boyfriend Andre Smith with an Apple AirTag because she suspected him of cheating on her, as my colleague Lindsey Bever reports.  

Apple markets its AirTag mini trackers as a way to locate easily lost items such as keys and wallets. But privacy advocates have long warned that AirTags and similar products are frequently used to track unsuspecting people.

Morris allegedly used the AirTag to locate Smith at a local pub where he was with another woman and a heated confrontation ensued. According to police, Morris is accused of running over Smith several times with a car, per the Indianapolis Star. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The case highlights how seemingly innocuous tracking technology can potentially be used for nefarious purposes — especially by romantic partners and exes — sometime with tragic results.  

Apple has made significant reforms to reduce the danger of AirTag stalking — but critics say the changes are far from sufficient.  

Here’s a rundown:

AirTags make a periodic chirping noise to alert people to their presence.

The tags also pop up an alert when they’re in proximity to an iPhone or other Apple product for an extended period of time.

That alert previously only popped up after three days of proximity, but Apple announced earlier this year that it is significantly shortening that window. In a test run in March, Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler received an alert after just 45 minutes.

Similar tracking products offered by Samsung and the company Tile can be discovered in proximity to a phone by scanning with apps offered by the companies.

But those safeguards leave plenty of loopholes that can work to a stalker’s advantage. Geoffrey highlighted several of them.

The AirTag sound can be tough to hear if you’re in a noisy place.

The AirTag alerts also don’t automatically pop up if the person being tracked uses an Android or other non-Apple product.

There’s an Android app people can download to find AirTags in proximity to their phones. But, as with the apps that identify trackers offered by Samsung and Tile, this puts the onus on the victim who may have no reason to suspect he or she is being tracked.

Students at the Technical University of Darmstadt developed a single app that scanned for all the major trackers, Geoffrey notes, something the companies themselves haven’t done that would at least make the process easier for people who fear being tracked.

Asked for comment on the Indianapolis case, Apple referred back to its statement from a series of anti-tracking updates in February. Security and privacy advocates were quick to highlight the Indianapolis case as evidence that more security checks are needed. 

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