A Tennessee family visiting Walt Disney World hurriedly left the Florida theme park over a stalking scare after being pinged by Apple about its AirTag surveillance device tracking their teenage daughter for up to four hours.
Jennifer Gaston and her 17-year-old daughter Maddison became frantic after the teen received a notification saying they were being followed by the owner of the tracking device as they headed back to their car on Magic Kingdom’s monorail earlier this week.
The notification showed that Maddison had been tracked over the course of four hours – from 7:09 pm to 11:33 pm – with the location of where she had visiting in the sprawling theme park – all the way to the parking lot.
‘We were terrified, we were confused, hurt and scared,’ Gaston told Fox 35 Orlando. ‘She literally watched it follow us from the tram all the way back to our vehicle,’ she added, referring to her daughter.
‘It showed the first destination where it was detected with her, then it basically draws a line and makes the connections of the points where she had been,’ she added.
The teen and her mother searched their car but couldn’t find the device. They locked the car’s door and drove away before calling the police, with Maddison continuing to monitor the device’s location 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 out clothes and dumping everything out of our bags it fell out,’ Gaston said.
The $30 wireless devices was designed to help keep track of items people often misplace, like keys or wallets, but have increasingly been revealed to be used by suspected stalkers to track people, most commonly 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 was to place an AirTag on a car but not get in the car, then the driver of the vehicle should be alerted that there is an AirTag nearby or moving with them.
Jennifer Gaston said she discovered an AirTag tracking her and her 17-year-old daughter, Maddison (right) while heading 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 did not belong to the family, stated that it was first detected with the pair at 7:09 p.m. before receiving a notification four hours later, at about 11:33 p.m. Pictured: Gaston’s steps at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World
The family made the creepy discovery while paying a day visit to America’s busiest theme park
How Tennessee teen realized she was being tracked with AirTag
The Apple AirTags are designed to emit a sound after they are separated from their owner.
Maddison received a ping on her iPhone as she was leaving the park to notify her that she was carrying an unknown AirTa from 9:30 pm to 11:33 pm
She checked her clothing and dumped everything out of her bags but did not find the device.
After she and her mom left the park, the AirTag was still pinging that it was in the parking lot.
‘I had seen videos of other people warning people about them and what they were basically. So that’s how I knew what they were and I did not ignore the notification,’ Madison added.
The AirTag should begin to play a sound to let people nearby know its location. However, it has been proven that the alert and sound can take hours or even days to be sent out and are even able to be turned off. The devices are also very small and can easily be hidden.
The location of the AirTag 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 directions to locate the tag and the missing product.
Maddison and her mother agreed that people should report the slightest unusual digital activity they notice on their phones, and to learn more about the new tracking technology as time goes on.
‘Definitely do your research and find out what these are. Have proper settings on your phone so that if you do have an Air Tag that ends up with you to make sure that your phone will detect it,’ Garson said.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said since the family didn’t end up physically finding the AirTag, the incident has not been identified as a crime. However, investigators have filed an incident report and have been made aware of the event.
Apple has released an Android friendly app called tracker detect to allow Android users to be alerted of an AirTag moving with them.
Due to growing concerns on the device’s misuse, some privacy groups have called for the gadgets to be stripped from store shelves.
‘Some people who have ill will towards others are using it to potentially stalk people, follow people, tag vehicles, high luxury vehicles, that they might want to come back and steal,’ said David Benson, a security consultant in the area. ‘Even if it’s not at epidemic proportions, it’s happening enough where it’s concerning.’
If a person find themselves being tracked after finding an AirTag, then the best outcome is to go to a public location and to inform local authorities rather than to go home or hotel, Benson added.
People are calling for Apple to discontinue their AirTag tracking devices as women are increasingly reporting finding the devices has been tracking them to their homes
In January, a young mother in Texas said she found an AirTag taped inside her duffel bag as she traveled from Texas to Maine.
‘I think they definitely would have hurt me. I don’t think you do that 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 tracking their location since the tracking device was released by Apple 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 the AirTag is registered to.
Law enforcement officers are advising women to go to the police department immediately after getting an unwarranted AirTag notification or finding the device. If possible they advise to avoid returning home, however most women seem to learn about the tracking devices after going home.
Most women have found AirTags hidden in or on their cars but sometimes they have even been located in personal belongings such as duffel bags and coats. The small tracking devices cost $30 and can easily be hidden in very inconspicuous places