A family from Tennessee visiting Walt Disney World hastily left the Florida theme park following an alert after being questioned by Apple about its AirTag tracking device tracking their teenage daughter for up to four hours.
Jennifer Gaston and her 17-year-old daughter Maddison became distraught after the teenager received a notification that they were being followed by the owner of the tracking device as they walked back to their car on the Magic Kingdom monorail earlier this week.
The notification showed Maddison was tracked for four hours – from 7.09pm to 11.33pm – with the location of where she visited the sprawling theme park – to the parking lot.
“We were terrified, confused, hurt and scared,” Gaston told Fox 35 Orlando. “She literally watched him follow us from the tram to our vehicle,” she added, referring to her daughter.
“It showed the first destination where it was detected with it, and then it basically drew a line and made the connections of the points where it had been,” she added.
The teenager and her mother searched their car but did not find the device. They locked the car door and drove off before calling the police, with Maddison continuing to monitor the location of the device on her iPhone.
“As she was refreshing it, it showed the AirTag was still in our parking spot, so somehow when we were frantically shaking clothes and throwing everything out of our bags, it’s fell,” said Gaston.
The $30 wireless devices were designed to help keep track of items people often misplace, like keys or wallets, but have been increasingly revealed to be used by suspected stalkers to follow people, most often women.
The device is designed to prohibit “unwarranted tracking” by alerting a nearby iPhone when the AirTag has been separated from its user. For example, if someone places an AirTag on a car but does not get into the car, the driver of the vehicle should be alerted that there is an AirTag nearby or is driving with it.
Jennifer Gaston said she discovered an AirTag following her and her 17-year-old daughter Maddison (right) as they walked back to their car on the Walt Disney World monorail in Orlando, Florida. The pair had received a notification on Maddison’s phone
The AirTag, which was not owned by the family, said he was first detected with the pair at 7:09 p.m. before receiving a notification four hours later at around 11:33 p.m. Pictured: Gaston’s footsteps at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom
The family made the chilling discovery during a day trip to America’s busiest theme park
How a Tennessee Teen Realized She Was Being Tracked With AirTag
Apple AirTags are designed to emit sound after being separated from their owner.
Maddison received a ping on her iPhone as she left the park to inform her that she was carrying an unknown AirTa from 9:30 p.m. to 11:33 p.m.
She checked her clothes and emptied everything out of her bags but couldn’t find the device.
After she and her mother left the park, the AirTag still reported that he was in the parking lot.
“I had seen videos of other people warning people about them and what they basically were. That’s how I knew what they were and didn’t ignore the notification,’ Madison added.
The AirTag should begin emitting a sound to notify nearby people of its location. However, it has been proven that the alert and sound can take hours or even days to be sent and can even be turned off. The devices are also very small and can easily be hidden.
The AirTag’s location is sent to iCloud where it can be seen on a map, according to Apple’s website. Using the “Find My” app, the system provides its owner with step-by-step instructions to locate the missing tag and product.
Maddison and her mother agreed that people should report any unusual digital activity they notice on their phone and learn more about new tracking technology over time.
‘Do your research and find out what it is. Have the proper settings on your phone so that if you have an Air Tag that ends up with you, make sure your phone will detect it,” Garson said.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said the family did not eventually physically find the AirTag, so the incident has not been identified as a felony. However, investigators filed an incident report and were made aware of the event.
Apple released an Android-friendly app called tracker detect to let Android users be alerted to an AirTag moving with them.
Due to growing concerns over misuse of the device, some privacy groups have called for the gadgets to be removed from store shelves.
“Some people who have ill will towards others use it to potentially stalk people, track people, mark vehicles, luxury vehicles, that they might want to come back and steal,” said David Benson, a security consultant in the region. “Even if it’s not in epidemic proportions, it’s happening enough where it’s concerning.”
If someone finds themselves being followed after finding an AirTag, the best outcome is to go to a public place and notify local authorities rather than going home or to a hotel, Benson added.
People are asking Apple to stop their AirTag tracking devices as women increasingly report that the devices have tracked them to their homes.
In January, a young Texas mother said she found an AirTag stuck inside her gym bag while traveling from Texas to Maine.
“I think they definitely would have hurt me. I don’t think you do this for no reason,’ she told Inside Edition at the time. “It took almost 14 hours to let me know this was happening,” she said.
Hundreds of other women have posted videos on TikTok to share their stories of how they found mysterious AirTags attached to their items and tracked their location since Apple released the tracking device in April.
Each AirTag has a serial number physically written on it and connected by Bluetooth. If law enforcement produces a court order, Apple could reveal the identity of the iPhone on which the AirTag is registered.
Law enforcement officers are advising women to report to the police department immediately after receiving an unwarranted AirTag notification or finding the device. If possible, they advise avoiding going home, but most women seem to inquire about tracking devices after they return home.
Most women found AirTags hidden in or on their cars, but sometimes they were even located in personal effects such as duffel bags and coats. Small tracking devices cost $30 and can easily be hidden in very inconspicuous places