Pennsylvania moves to punish stalkers who use Bluetooth tracking devices
Posted: May 1, 2024 - 3:03am

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania took a step Tuesday toward becoming the latest state to punish someone for using a Bluetooth-connected device to track someone without permission.

The state House of Representatives voted 199-1 to approve legislation that would make using a tracking device to secretly track another person part of Pennsylvania’s laws against stalking. The crime would be punishable as a third-degree misdemeanor, or up to 90 days in jail.

The bill goes to the Senate, where a separate bill is pending that would make the crime a second-degree misdemeanor, or punishable by up to two years in jail.

Most states have a provision in state law that prohibits remote tracking, while others are adding it. Ohio is considering such legislation, Florida is increasing penalties for using such a device and Kentucky approved a new law last year.

Bluetooth-controlled devices made by various tech giants or digital apps installed on a mobile phone can secretly track the movements of another person.

The House bill’s passage Tuesday comes a few weeks after a federal judge denied Apple’s motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit contending that the tech giant hasn’t done enough to prevent stalkers from using its AirTag devices to track victims.

Apple’s $29 AirTags have become popular items since their 2021 release, helping users keep tabs on the location of anything from lost keys to wallets and luggage.

But stalkers have also taken advantage of AirTags and similar tracking devices, and dozens of plaintiffs sued Apple in 2022, contending that AirTag users had stalked them. They said its safety features are inadequate and that Apple should have done more to protect victims after AirTags “revolutionized the scope, breadth, and ease of location-based stalking."

Apple has condemned any malicious use of the product. It argued in court that it “took proactive steps" to deter misuse and that it shouldn’t be liable for damage caused by third parties.

Last year, Apple partnered with Google to set standards for fighting secret surveillance with tracking devices.