Family alleges AirTag was used to stalk mother and daughter on Disney World trip

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2
A family's trip to Disney World turned sour after it was discovered they may have been stalked throughout the theme park using AirTag.




Members of the Gaston family from Tennessee had spent a full day enjoying themselves at Disney World, but a notification on an iPhone about an AirTag they didn't own tracking their movements darkened the end of the day at the Magic Kingdom.

Mother Jennifer Gaston and daughter Madison were walking to their car late in the evening when they were notified an AirTag was moving with them, reports WKRN. Jennifer said the first detection was at 7:09 p.m., and the notification appeared on their device at 11:33 p.m.

On checking the notification, Madison saw a map including places they had walked throughout the park over a four-hour period. "It showed the first destination where it was detected with her, then it basically draws a line and makes the connections of the points where she had been," said Jennifer.

To try and find the AirTag, both mother and daughter shook their bags and clothing in the parking lot, but failed to find the device. They then drove to their hotel and called police on the way.

If an AirTag is found, it can be handed to police, who can then use the serial number to track down its owner. However, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said the responding deputy did not identify a criminal violation since the physical tag wasn't found.

Even so, investigators did take an incident report, and say they are aware of the situation.

Though it is plausible that the AirTag fell and went missing in the car park, OSCO offers the possibility it was a mistaken identification. It is proposed that the sheer number of Apple devices in the park, along with AirTags, could've produced an "erroneous" detection.

"As a parent, I was just so frantic in the moment," Jennifer told the report. "Just to think that somebody had those intentions. Looking at your daughters and just having those intentions, it was just terrifying."

Madison said she was scared as she had seen videos about AirTag stalking, "but it's one of those things you never think is going to happen to you until it actually does."

This scenario is not the same as most of the rest where a large interior and exterior area of vehicle contains the AirTag, and even with park purchases, it is easy to search yourself -- as the family did. In all probability, the family was in proximity to a group of folks in the park, with one or more of them having an AirTag.

Some of the more popular attractions can have lines of up to two hours -- and sometimes more. Additionally, a crowd gathers sometimes three hours before the nightly fireworks shows, and the family's timetable puts them in the parks during that time.

Even though Apple says that the AirTag isn't for tracking people, AppleInsider has seen families with children wearing AirTags on special necklaces in the parks.

The misuse of AirTag for stalking has caught the attention of lawmakers and authorities, prompting the New York Attorney General to issue a warning about trackers in February. Apple has also come under criticism for its anti-stalking features, which have been found in one April report not to be as effective as they could be.

Even so, there are cases where the anti-stalking features have proven to be useful. In February, the features were credited for the arrest of a stalker who attempted to use an AirTag hidden in a trailer hitch.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    twlatltwlatl Posts: 3member
    This happened to me on our last trip to Disneyworld. No one was stalking us. When you are on a ride, or in a line for a while with someone who has an Apple device - air tag, AirPods, etc - the tracking notification can get confused thinking that device is trying to track you when it’s just a device on someone close by. 

    I doubt anyone was stalking the person who this story is about, but I don’t discount the anxiety that notification can cause. When I got it for a few minutes I was panicked, but then I figured out what was happening. 
    Xedwookie01appleinsiderusercommand_ftwokatmewlolliverTheObannonFileJFC_PAdewmeStrangeDays
  • Reply 2 of 22
    command_fcommand_f Posts: 388member
    twlatl said:
    This happened to me on our last trip to Disneyworld. No one was stalking us. When you are on a ride, or in a line for a while with someone who has an Apple device - air tag, AirPods, etc - the tracking notification can get confused thinking that device is trying to track you when it’s just a device on someone close by. 
    I think you're probably right. There are guides to the "optimum" route to take around Disney: two parties that read the same website could well stay in close proximity for a sequence of rides.
    jony0
  • Reply 3 of 22
    command_f said:
    twlatl said:
    This happened to me on our last trip to Disneyworld. No one was stalking us. When you are on a ride, or in a line for a while with someone who has an Apple device - air tag, AirPods, etc - the tracking notification can get confused thinking that device is trying to track you when it’s just a device on someone close by. 
    I think you're probably right. There are guides to the "optimum" route to take around Disney: two parties that read the same website could well stay in close proximity for a sequence of rides.
    Thats not quite like this though is it? If someone remains in close proximity to you, for example a friend takes a long road trio with you and has a tracker, you would not get that alert unless that person didn't also have his iPhone with him.
  • Reply 4 of 22
    GDMcGGDMcG Posts: 1member
    command_f said:
    twlatl said:
    This happened to me on our last trip to Disneyworld. No one was stalking us. When you are on a ride, or in a line for a while with someone who has an Apple device - air tag, AirPods, etc - the tracking notification can get confused thinking that device is trying to track you when it’s just a device on someone close by. 
    I think you're probably right. There are guides to the "optimum" route to take around Disney: two parties that read the same website could well stay in close proximity for a sequence of rides.
    Thats not quite like this though is it? If someone remains in close proximity to you, for example a friend takes a long road trio with you and has a tracker, you would not get that alert unless that person didn't also have his iPhone with him.
    Though I would think that a theme park environment is the ideal location where an iPhone owner might be separated from their AirTags for a bit - such as AirTags on bags in strollers, camera bags, strollers themselves (I can speak from experience on how easy it is to lose a stroller in the park). Family members often separate from one another as they take kids of different ages on rides etc. I can easily see how an AirTag would be out of proximity of its owner for a bit in the theme parks. 
    lolliver
  • Reply 5 of 22
    ravnorodomravnorodom Posts: 496member
    My son, a college commuter, at one point got notification from iPhone that someone was AirTaging him. He panicked. We looked in his school backpack and car but couldn't find it. Later we realized that on the app you can actually play the sound on the un-identifying AirTag. So he played the sound and it came from his own jacket pocket where his car key is. The AirTag is attached to his car key. The AirTag created its own new ID and where as the original "Keys" label I setup for him was no longer functioning. My conclusion is the AirTag rebooted itself after upgrading and created a new AirTag ID on its own. Very strange that the AirTag lost its original setting. I ended up resetting it and all is back to normal.
    edited May 1 Xedmwhitemuthuk_vanalingamiOS_Guy80dewmeretrogustojony0
  • Reply 6 of 22
    XedXed Posts: 1,449member
    command_f said:
    twlatl said:
    This happened to me on our last trip to Disneyworld. No one was stalking us. When you are on a ride, or in a line for a while with someone who has an Apple device - air tag, AirPods, etc - the tracking notification can get confused thinking that device is trying to track you when it’s just a device on someone close by. 
    I think you're probably right. There are guides to the "optimum" route to take around Disney: two parties that read the same website could well stay in close proximity for a sequence of rides.
    I've never looked up optimism routes at theme parks and yet I seem to see the same people in the lines for the same rides all day. There are enough people that you'll get a few people who are making personal decisions that just happen to be the same ones you make.

    command_f said:
    twlatl said:
    This happened to me on our last trip to Disneyworld. No one was stalking us. When you are on a ride, or in a line for a while with someone who has an Apple device - air tag, AirPods, etc - the tracking notification can get confused thinking that device is trying to track you when it’s just a device on someone close by. 
    I think you're probably right. There are guides to the "optimum" route to take around Disney: two parties that read the same website could well stay in close proximity for a sequence of rides.
    Thats not quite like this though is it? If someone remains in close proximity to you, for example a friend takes a long road trio with you and has a tracker, you would not get that alert unless that person didn't also have his iPhone with him.
    I tested AirTags at a Disney theme park right soon after they came out. The AirTag was tied to my iPhone but often not around me. If that feature had been introduced then it's likely that several iPhones would've gone off indicating a rogue AirTag tracking them.
    jony0
  • Reply 7 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,063member
    This is an utterly pointless non-story. They didn’t even find a device and it was likely someone wandering around the park as they were. Why even report this here? How are we better informed?
    edited May 1 Xedapplguydewme
  • Reply 8 of 22
    XedXed Posts: 1,449member
    This is an utterly pointless non-story. They didn’t even find a device and it was likely someone wandering around the park as they were. Why even report this here? How are we better informed?
    That's a good question. It just adds fuel to the foolish rantings by C███y and others that AirTags should be recalled for having an anti-stalking features in the first place.
    edited May 1
  • Reply 9 of 22
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,143member
    This is an utterly pointless non-story. They didn’t even find a device and it was likely someone wandering around the park as they were. Why even report this here? How are we better informed?
    Now you know that you may get false-positive reports when in high foot traffic places like Disneyland, so no need to immediately panic.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 10 of 22
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,456administrator
    This is an utterly pointless non-story. They didn’t even find a device and it was likely someone wandering around the park as they were. Why even report this here? How are we better informed?
    Because non-Apple publications miss the point of stories like this, and lack context that we provide. It's great that you know how AirTags work, but the same cannot be said for the folks that are finding this story as we speak from the Internet as a whole.

    As a reminder, AppleInsider is for everybody, not just the forum-goers.
    mac_dogM68000freeassociate2winstoner71muthuk_vanalingamFred257gatorguyronndewmejony0
  • Reply 11 of 22
    MadbumMadbum Posts: 87member
    Are these people morons? 
    winstoner71
  • Reply 12 of 22
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,991member
    Where are the lawsuits? In this fucking litigious culture we live in why haven’t the blood sucking lawyers attacked? Emotional distress?
    edited May 1 jony0
  • Reply 13 of 22
    My son, a college commuter, at one point got notification from iPhone that someone was AirTaging him. He panicked. We looked in his school backpack and car but couldn't find it. Later we realized that on the app you can actually play the sound on the un-identifying AirTag. So he played the sound and it came from his own jacket pocket where his car key is. The AirTag is attached to his car key. The AirTag created its own new ID and where as the original "Keys" label I setup for him was no longer functioning. My conclusion is the AirTag rebooted itself after upgrading and created a new AirTag ID on its own. Very strange that the AirTag lost its original setting. I ended up resetting it and all is back to normal.
    Same here. Yesterday I was being ‘stalked’ by AirPods Pro. After the second notification I discovered they were my own.  Somehow the connection to my iPhone had deteriorated*. I didn’t realize that at first because the AirPods worked, I could listen to Audible. But after reading ravnorodoms  comment I tried to check the firmware and discovered that I couldn’t find my AirPods in Settings. Just ‘forgetting’ & reconnecting didn’t do the trick but restarting the iPhone did. 

    *sometimes my partners AirPods connect to my iPad while I am using it. Annoying. Then I ‘forget’ her AirPods. But sometimes she uses my iPad so I connect her AirPods again and forget mine. And reconnect them later. We went through that circus a day before. I guess my iPhone lost track of all the changes. :-)
    ravnorodomretrogustojony0
  • Reply 14 of 22
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,456administrator
    Hello readers new and old! While we appreciate debate on topics of the day, we do have rules to follow here in the forums. They are conveninently linked at the bottom of every forum page, and I'll post the link here too:

    https://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/184333/appleinsiders-updated-commenting-guidelines/p1

    If you can't see your comment, it's probably time to read or re-read them.
  • Reply 15 of 22
    Fred257Fred257 Posts: 175member
    I’ve written about my concerns about AirTags here a few times as I have been physically stalked by abusers in real life. Instead I carry pepper spray with me everywhere I go. AirTags are one of many ways to stalk a victim. I commend AI for reporting on this and having a lively discussion about it. I think it’s one of the reasons Apple has this notification on your phone now. Unfortunately, someone is going to use AirTags as a way to find a victim and this is the reality. But, cars and airplanes are also used as weapons so, protect yourself is all I can say anymore. Thank you AI
    jony0
  • Reply 16 of 22
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,351member
    What a worthless “story”. So, they don’t have evidence that they were actually stalked (in a sense themepark where thousands are in close proximity and going in the same direction). This whole story is based around the fact that they got a notification, which means the product is working as intended. Where’s the story?
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 17 of 22
    XedXed Posts: 1,449member
    slurpy said:
    What a worthless “story”. So, they don’t have evidence that they were actually stalked (in a sense themepark where thousands are in close proximity and going in the same direction). This whole story is based around the fact that they got a notification, which means the product is working as intended. Where’s the story?
    You mention a lack of evidence, and while I didn't see screenshot showing the notification saying an AirTag is effectively tracking their same route of travel I don't doubt that it's true. If you think that a mother and daughter made that up and called the police to get some publicity then perhaps you are the one that needs to supply the proof of such a claim.

    As for it being a worthless story, you don't think it's good to know that in a crowded environment such as a theme park Apple's anti-stalking algorithms may indicate a potential stalker when there is none. I'm guessing this won't be the last time this happens with no AirTag found on the so-called stalkee's person so it'll be good to be able reference these sort of cases when that occurs to help calm someone who is overly upset over a phantom stalker.
    edited May 2 muthuk_vanalingamdewmeretrogustojony0
  • Reply 18 of 22
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,241member
    Huh. I had not previously thought about potential issues with AirTags in a high density environment where you are surrounded by several AirTags that are not your own. From the comments I see here, this seems like a very likely condition that prompted this family’s reaction, especially if you have numbers of AirTags moving around from place to place, which is more likely in a theme park setting where people can reserve boarding times for rides. It makes sense that there would be a statistical probability that some AirTags would be correlated if people are signing up for boarding times for rides that are physically adjacent.

    Good to know, but also disturbing to know that people are allowing themselves to get freaked out about threats that they don’t really understand or scenarios that defy logic and critical thinking. What’s the probability that any one individual in a population of tens of thousands of individuals is being targeted by a stalker using an easily detectable stalking mechanism? I’d say it’s pretty low, but unfortunately, a lot of folks are living in fear these days.
    retrogustojony0
  • Reply 19 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,063member
    This is an utterly pointless non-story. They didn’t even find a device and it was likely someone wandering around the park as they were. Why even report this here? How are we better informed?
    Because non-Apple publications miss the point of stories like this, and lack context that we provide. It's great that you know how AirTags work, but the same cannot be said for the folks that are finding this story as we speak from the Internet as a whole.

    As a reminder, AppleInsider is for everybody, not just the forum-goers.
    Yet this story doesn't exhibit much skepticism at all. The lead sentence adds fuel to this very fire by suggesting they "may have been stalked", not that they may have misunderstood what nearby AirTags were doing:

    "A family's trip to Disney World turned sour after it was discovered they may have been stalked throughout the theme park using AirTag."

    ...it isn't until 12 paragraphs later that it mentions the crowds & lines, and it's easy to miss. So no, it doesn't really seem to be working to inform the general public about this.

    edited May 2 jony0
  • Reply 20 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,063member
    Xed said:
    slurpy said:
    What a worthless “story”. So, they don’t have evidence that they were actually stalked (in a sense themepark where thousands are in close proximity and going in the same direction). This whole story is based around the fact that they got a notification, which means the product is working as intended. Where’s the story?
    You mention a lack of evidence, and while I didn't see screenshot showing the notification saying an AirTag is effectively tracking their same route of travel I don't doubt that it's true. If you think that a mother and daughter made that up and called the police to get some publicity then perhaps you are the one that needs to supply the proof of such a claim.

    As for it being a worthless story, you don't think it's good to know that in a crowded environment such as a theme park Apple's anti-stalking algorithms may indicate a potential stalker when there is none. I'm guessing this won't be the last time this happens with no AirTag found on the so-called stalkee's person so it'll be good to be able reference these sort of cases when that occurs to help calm someone who is overly upset over a phantom stalker.
    You misread that. Slurpy isn't suggesting they made up that they got the notification. He's saying there's no evidence they were stalked whatsoever -- there was no other AirTag to speak off. Just the notification. Which in a very populated place where people stand in line for hours at a time, has a pretty reasonable alternative explanation. 

    Had this story been about that topic -- how AirTags work in crowded areas, that would be interesting. This story wasn't that tho, it was about being stalked. 12 paragraphs into they mention the lines, but it was barely covered.
    jony0
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