Samsung SmartTag Lawsuit Filed Over Lack of Safeguards Against Stalking
Samsung faces a class action lawsuit over its SmartTag tracking sensors, which was brought by a woman who was stalked for over a year by an ex-boyfriend using with one of the devices, which allegedly lack adequate protective measures to protect innocent victims.
The complaint (PDF) was filed last month by a Pennsylvania woman, identified only as Jane Doe, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The lawsuit names Samsung Electronics America, Inc, and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. as the defendants.
The Samsung SmartTag is a small device about the size of a standard key fob, which only costs $30, and is designed to be placed in luggage and wallets, so that the user can track an item if it gets lost. The device uses the Samsung SmartThings network, which is created using signals from BlueTooth sensors in hundreds of millions of Samsung items throughout the United States. This makes the tracking ability of the SmartTag extremely accurate.
However, this accuracy and low price point are combined with a lack of safety measures, which the Samsung SmartTag class action lawsuit alleges make the devices extremely attractive for stalkers and abusers. The devices can easily be hidden in someone’s belongings or vehicle without being noticed, allowing predators or abusers to track individuals for nefarious purposes, without providing sufficient warning.
Ex-Boyfriend Used SmartTag to Stalk Plaintiff
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was stalked by her ex-boyfriend through the Samsung SmartTag for nearly a year, from November 2021, when she was still in a relationship with him, until the tracking device was discovered in September 2022 after they ended the relationship. The SmartTag was taped to the bottom of her vehicle’s rear bumper.
Throughout that period, the plaintiff received disturbing messages from her ex-boyfriend, indicating that he could follow her every move. Police were not able to find the device, and neither were apps designed to detect tracking sensors, because they were specifically meant to detect Apple AirTags, a similar device with similar problems with stalking. In addition, Samsung customer support offered no assistance.
It was not until she convinced her ex to confess the location of the SmartTag that she was able to find it.
“Between September 3rd and September 24th, Ms. Doe repeatedly called Samsung with help in locating additional tracking devices, and repeatedly Samsung demurred in assisting her. On or about September 24th, 2022 Ms. Doe finally reached a customer service agent who did personal research on Ms. Doe’s behalf,” the lawsuit states. “Only after this collaboration was the agent able to guide Ms. Doe through the process of downloading Samsung’s own “Smart Things” app, which has the ability to locate nearby Samsung tracking devices. Revealing this functionality was demonstrably an ultra vires act of goodwill on behalf of the agent, as evidenced by the numerous customer service calls Ms. Doe had made prior that resulted in no help in locating additional devices.”
The lawsuit indicates Samsung failed to build adequate safeguards into the SmartTag to prevent stalking. In addition, what few safety features are included do not work on some other smartphone operating systems, such as Apple’s iOS.
“Samsung’s efforts to mitigate the dangers of the SmartTag product fall woefully short,” the lawsuit notes. “The lack of reliable security features has caused individuals to be vulnerable to stalking.”
Apple AirTag Concerns
The complaint raises allegations similar to those presented in a recent Apple AirTag class action lawsuit filed earlier this year.
Both lawsuits indicate that tech experts and advocates of victims of domestic violence warned both companies of the potential risks before they put the devices on the market. However, Apple and Samsung appear to have chosen profits over consumer safety.
Law enforcement officials have warned the devices have not only been used to stalk, and in some cases murder, former spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends. They have also been used to track potential sex trafficking victims, celebrities, and the new partners of ex-spouses, all without individuals being aware they were tracked.
The plaintiff in the SmartTag lawsuit presents claims of negligence, design defect, unjust enrichment, intrusion upon seclusion, and seeks class action status, seeking to represent anyone who was stalked through the use of a SmartTag, as well as those at risk of being stalked who own iOS or Android devices.
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