Texas stalking law: Houston woman discovers husband she’s asking for divorce is stalking her with Apple Airtag

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – When a woman first heard a faint chirping sound, she thought it was from a toy her child had left in the car. The next day, she noticed a related message on her iPhone.

“(It says) that something is traveling with me,” said the woman, describing the message she received.

Soon after, this Houston woman, who didn’t want ABC13 to identify her because her divorce was still incomplete, realized she was being watched.

“Before I heard the squeak, I knew what an Airtag was. I wasn’t used to it being used that way, so I wasn’t expecting it,” she said.

The woman who first shared hers story with Houston Chronicleand is sharing it with ABC13 now because she wants people to realize how serious the problem can become.

Tracking people isn’t a new crime, however, recent advancements in technology, including tracking tools like Tile and Airtag, have made it difficult to track people without their knowledge. cheaper and easier than ever.

“All those technologies, they don’t know they’re being used to help you find the bike,” said Dr. Dan Wallach, a computer science professor at Rice University who specializes in electronic security issues. stolen or help you track your ex.” .

Wallach explained that Apple Airtag relies on Bluetooth technology, in addition to the Find My iPhone app from an individual’s iPhone to determine its location. That means all iPhones near a particular Airtag are actively helping to locate that tag, making it very geo-accurate. These tags are cheap, light, and since iPhones are basically everywhere, they’re great at tracking your stuff.

SEE RELATED STORY: Reports claim Apple’s AirTag electronic tracking device is used for tracking, theft: What you need to know

“If you lose something like your bike, it can help you find it,” says Wallach. “That’s really cool, but the same technology, if I’m tracking my ex, I can hide it in their handbag or purse or whatever. And then I can say, ‘You’re the one. Where’s my ex?'”

That’s exactly what happened in this woman’s case. She was going through a divorce and said her ex-husband hid the tracking device in the back seat of her car. After finding out, she sent all of her pictures, screenshots, and other information to her attorney. Then she faced her husband.

“At first he denied that he did it, then he was very apologetic and came clean,” she said.

In her case, stalking was not a crime.

“In Texas, we are a community-owned state,” explains Matt Tyson, a family attorney who has dealt with tracking devices with several of his clients.

Tyson points out that because the tracking device is in a car jointly owned by the husband and wife, and Texas is a community-owned state, tracking the vehicle is not a crime.

“So that means, the husband or wife will have the same preference for that car. If we’re talking about a car, they can track that,” Tyson said.

Tyson said cases of tracking using various tracking devices are notoriously difficult to prove in court in domestic situations. While it’s completely illegal to track a stranger, the law is stricter when tracking devices are used by people who are married, in a relationship, have joint property, or are in a relationship. have children in common.

“I’ve had a case where someone stuck a tag on their child’s backpack. And so the backpack could show when another parent was traveling with the child. (But) they were actually using it to track the parent. That’s not a Tyson said.

“It would be great if the regulators could be ahead of the game, but that’s not how regulation works,” said Wallach, who wants to see legislation passed that will help with prosecutions, said Wallach. more easily tracked device users.

ABC13 examined all follow-up cases filed in Harris County in the past 18 months. Only a handful of criminal cases have involved tracking devices, and in no case have Airtags been used. We also called several regional police agencies and some smaller law enforcement groups that weren’t even aware of the new technology.

“The law is always evolving, but unfortunately, technology moves a lot faster,” says Tyson. “So the law is trying to keep up with the new technology that’s actually evolving.”

“So how do we balance preventing theft with stopping stalkers?” Wallach asked. “I can say that there is a balance somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is.”

Now, it is our responsibility to all be aware of the ever-present new technology.

For more stories like this, follow Miya Shay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. Copyright Registered. Texas stalking law: Houston woman discovers husband she’s asking for divorce is stalking her with Apple Airtag

Dais Johnston

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