In Florida, the current penalty for unlawfully installing tracking devices or apps on someone else's vehicle or phone is a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. However, this punishment is being reconsidered. Representative Toby Overdorf, a Republican from Palm City, has introduced new legislation (HB 401) to impose stricter penalties for such offenses. The bill proposes elevating the offense from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, with potential consequences of up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
This legislative amendment aims to update the existing law, which was unanimously passed by state legislators in 2015, to cover modern tracking technologies like Apple's AirTags. These small, coin-sized devices were launched in 2021 and have become controversial due to their potential misuse. Priced at $29 each, AirTags are designed to help locate personal items using an iPhone's location service. However, they have also been employed as tools for stalking due to their compact size, ease of use, and affordability. Notably, AirTags don't always require installation, making them more discreet than traditional GPS trackers.
The bill addresses the loophole concerning the use of such devices, prohibiting the placement of tracking devices like AirTags on a person or their property without consent. However, exceptions would remain for law enforcement officers using such technology for criminal investigations, and in certain scenarios involving vehicle owners or lessees.
Additional exceptions would be made for parents, legal guardians, adult caregivers, and individuals acting on behalf of business entities under specific conditions. The need for this legislation became more pronounced after a group of 38 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Apple, alleging that the company failed to prevent the misuse of AirTags for stalking purposes. The lawsuit, filed in California, includes references to serious crimes, including two murders, where AirTags were reportedly used by perpetrators to track their victims.
In a notable case last year, Miami-Dade County police officer Javier Magarin faced charges for using an AirTag to stalk his ex-girlfriend, exemplifying the real-world implications of technology-assisted stalking. The proposed bill by Representative Overdorf is a response to these growing concerns, aiming to provide a legal framework that keeps pace with technological advancements and addresses their potential for misuse.