Watch above for an April report on lawmakers’ consideration of Senate Bill 100
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio senators on Wednesday passed a bill targeting the use of electronic tracking devices to monitor someone’s every move.
In a unanimous vote, the Ohio Senate approved a measure to prohibit the installation of a tracking device, like an Apple AirTag, on another person or their property without their consent, according to bill sponsors Sens. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood).
“Technology is great. You’re able to track your keys, your luggage or put it in your car if something happens there,” Manning said Wednesday. “But there are also some very scary situations. This is a privacy violation, for sure.”
Reintroduced in March after failing to muster through last year’s General Assembly, Senate Bill 100 would establish the use of tracking devices for menacing or stalking purposes as its own offense under Ohio law.
Doing so closes a loophole, the bill’s sponsors said, as current statutes require proof of a pattern of misconduct – evidence that’s not always available in cases involving the malicious use of an electronic tracking device, according to Manning.
The measure’s passage comes about one year after nationwide reports of unwanted tracking via AirTags were addressed by the tech’s creator, Apple, who designed the pocket-sized tracking device as a way for customers to find belongings, like wallets and keys.
But Akron woman Kar’mell Triplett’s harrowing discovery, first reported by Cleveland’s WKYC TV, that her abusive ex-partner plastered an Apple AirTag to the bottom of her to track her location in October 2021 prompted lawmakers to crack down on the practice.
“Even to present day, I look for unrecognized cars in my parking lot, monitor my vehicle for anything new,” Tripplett told lawmakers in April. “I’ve installed security cameras, I thoroughly vet new people in my life to not only ensure that they don’t have ties to my ex, but because I view people very differently.”
While investigating one of the largest catalytic converter theft rings in central Ohio, Groveport Police Department Detective Josh Gilbert said it was discovered that the now-convicted suspect, 42-year-old Tommy Cox, used the Apple device in his pursuit of more than 1,100 catalytic converters across several counties.
Once Cox swiped a catalytic converter, he would reportedly attach an AirTag to the bottom of the same vehicle, track its movement and return once the car’s owner replaced the part, Gilbert said, continuing a theft cycle that generated at least $430,000 in profits.
Modeling a pocket-sized AirTag to her fellow senators, Antonio said she slipped one into Sen. Mark Romanchuk’s (R-Ontario) pocket to illustrate the ease of secretly attaching a tracking device on a victim without their knowledge.
“He was like, ‘You know, if I didn’t see you put it there, it would be unbeknownst to (me),’” Antonio said. “You can imagine this goes undetected.”
Attorney General Dave Yost, who sued Apple in 2020 over accusations of iPhone throttling, gave the bill his stamp of approval last year, testifying to lawmakers about its potential to thwart people from using the $30 tracking devices for “nefarious purposes.”
After receiving reports of unwanted tracking, Apple updated its software in February 2022 to alert people if an unknown accessory, like an AirTag not owned by them, is being used in the vicinity. Each AirTag is marked with a serial number to help law enforcement prosecute their illegal use.
“AirTag was designed to help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or another person’s property, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products,” the company said in a statement.
Those convicted of the first-degree misdemeanor outlined in Senate Bill 100 – if it passes the Ohio House and get’s Gov. Mike DeWine’s approval – would be punishable by up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine.
Law enforcement agencies that use a tracking device as part of a criminal investigation or a parole case are exempt from prosecution under the measure, according to the bill’s sponsors. Parents and caregivers are also provided some exemptions.