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Privacy & Data

Op-Ed: Stopping Bluetooth Location Trackers From Becoming People Trackers

CDT’s Andrew Crawford co-authored this Tech Policy Press op-ed with Erica Olsen, Safety Net Project Senior Director at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Thanks to GPS, getting lost on the road has nearly become a thing of the past. And, thanks to bluetooth technology, losing your keys, luggage, or even your pet is also something many of us no longer have to worry about. Devices like AirTags and Tile Tags — which retail for only around $30 — work by enrolling a massive number of phones and other devices into a network that monitors and reports back the locations of these tags and whatever objects may be attached to them. 

Most of the time, these devices are harmless. However, location trackers have a dark underside — they’re also being misused to track people, sometimes surreptitiously, unethically, and illegally. In December, two women filed a class action lawsuit against Apple after discovering that their exes were stalking them using AirTags. In one case, an ex-boyfriend put a device in her car’s tire wheel after their breakup to find out where she moved, and taunted her with pictures of a food truck in her new neighborhood. In the other, an estranged husband placed an AirTag in their daughter’s school backpack to track her whereabouts.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, there’s also a fear that bluetooth trackers will be used to find people providing and seeking abortions. The data gathered could be used to prosecute them and send them to jail.
Fortunately, four steps can be taken to protect our civil rights and liberties from these invasive abuses.

For the full piece, visit Tech Policy Press.