Apple AirTags are a stalker’s dream, lawsuit says, investigation reveals clean energy law’s unfulfilled promises and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Apple AirTags, which retail for $29 and are the size of a half-dollar coin, are a popular way to locate lost keys or wallets. But critics say they’re also used by stalkers to track victims.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will see rain mixed with snow and a high near 35 degrees. Tonight will be cloudy with a low near 36. Tomorrow will also be cloudy with a chance of rain and a high near 30. Sunday will be mostly cloudy with a high near 43.

Top story

Apple AirTags are a stalker’s dream device, lawsuit says

A federal lawsuit targeting Apple and its popular AirTags tracker says the tech device that was created to help people track down their lost keys and wallets has “become the weapon of choice of stalkers and abusers.”

The lawsuit accuses Apple of negligently marketing AirTags despite warnings from privacy experts and advocates for domestic violence victims that they easily could be misused. The suit, filed in northern California, seeks nationwide certification as a class action — meaning it would apply to others as well as the two women who filed it — and more than $5 million in damages. The stalking dangers it points to mirror the findings of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation last May that found numerous reports of AirTags planted on unsuspecting victims in Chicago.

Soon after AirTags first became available in April 2021, stalkers in Chicago figured out how to attach them to their victims’ cars and other items, the Sun-Times found. Between July 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, people filed 33 police reports saying AirTags were used to track them, without their knowledge, via Bluetooth technology.

“It’s the exact same thing,” says Gillian L. Wade, the Los Angeles lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Texas woman who says she was stalked after breaking off a three-month relationship and a New York woman who says her ex-husband stalked her by putting AirTags in their child’s backpack.

The Texas plaintiff, Lauren Hughes, was harassed so badly in 2021, the suit says, that she decided to move to a new apartment. But the suit says that, while staying at a hotel before the move, she was horrified to find an AirTag attached to a rear wheel well of her car. The suit says the man also taunted her on social media, posting a photo from her new neighborhood with a winking emoji and a hashtag referring to AirTags.

The tracking devices are easy to use, accurate and inexpensive, selling for about $29 each.

They emit signals that are detected by Bluetooth sensors in any nearby Apple product, creating what the lawsuit describes as a network of “hundreds of millions” of Apple devices in the United States. That ubiquitous Apple network makes AirTags highly accurate but also “uniquely harmful,” the suit says.

It says outside experts warned Apple that AirTags could be misused but that the tech giant dismissed those concerns, falsely touting the product as “stalker-proof.”

“It’s a dangerous product that they released into the marketplace knowingly,” Wade says.

Stephanie Zimmermann has more on the lawsuit here.

More news you need

  1. Community leaders are appealing for the public’s help in finding the driver of a pickup truck who struck and killed 56-year-old Juana Tapia Lopez as she was crossing a street in Little Village. “It’s been so lonely without her,” her daughter told the Sun-Times. Our Michael Loria has more on Miss Lopez and the tragic incident here.
  2. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy yesterday urged Chicagoans to roll up a sleeve for the latest COVID-19 booster shot. Murthy’s statement comes as vaccination rates lag while viral cases and hospitalizations are rising once again during the holiday season.
  3. Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans has hired a law firm to interview his employees in an investigation of possible fraud regarding government COVID relief loans they received. The Sun-Times has identified 20 of Evans’ employees who appear to have received a total of $530,000 in federal Paycheck Protection Program, Frank Main reports.
  4. Fifteen months after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, the state hasn’t begun its promised workforce development programs aimed at helping minority contractors and workers. Our Brett Chase teamed up with Inside Climate News’ Dan Gearino to break down the unfulfilled promises of the law here.
  5. Illinois bettors wagered more than $1 billion on sports in October. That marks a new record for the state’s young sports betting industry and one of the highest monthly figures recorded anywhere in the U.S. since the industry was legalized, gambling regulators announced.
  6. After being in the U.S. for more than 30 years, Julita Bartolome was deported in 2019 to the Philippines during a wave of immigration crackdowns by the Trump administration. She’s now back home in Mount Prospect — for good, WBEZ’s Esther Yoon-Ji Kang reports.
  7. For the latest installment in our Murals and Mosaics series, we highlight a newer Hyde Park mural featuring the late Chicago-born artist Donny Hathaway and get the backstory from the artist responsible. To get more stories behind the city’s public art in your inbox every Friday, subscribe to our Murals and Mosaics newsletter here.

A bright one

First-year engineering students at Wilbur Wright College compete for $5K scholarship

Victor Correa loved to take apart anything he could get his hands on and repurpose it into something new when he was a child in Mexico.

As he got older, he found more avenues to express his interest in the mechanical side of everyday objects. An obsession was born.

“I found out about robotics and fell in love with it,” Correa said. “So I started building robots in my home.”

Correa, 18, and his family came to the United States seven years ago and he is now studying engineering at Wilbur Wright College in Portage Park. Yesterday, Correa’s team of first-year engineering students was among 16 others competing for a $5,000 scholarship in the program’s third annual Engineering Idea competition.

The Team behind ADAM, a robot designed to help prevent uncontrolled fires, on Thursday during an Engineering Idea competition at Wilbur Wright College in Portage Park.

The team behind ADAM, a robot designed to help prevent uncontrolled fires, yesterday during an Engineering Idea competition at Wilbur Wright College in Portage Park. Victor Correa (middle) Holds the device.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The competition is the culmination of the real-world skills the students have learned during their first semester in the engineering success seminar, which aims to prepare students for successful college and professional careers.

Students had five minutes to pitch to judges — which included faculty, last year’s winners and engineers from companies like Google and Shure — on their creations. Correa’s team built a prototype for a firefighting robot, dubbed the Anti-Disaster Automated Machine, or ADAM, which is designed to be deployed in high-risk fire areas to extinguish flames. The finished product would be water and fire resistant, all-terrain capable and would have the ability to communicate over long distances. It took Correa about a month to build the prototype, which was made mostly from repurposed materials.

Many of the students at the competition are enrolled in the college’s Engineering Pathway program, which guarantees admission to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s engineering program and the Armour College of Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology after students receive their associate’s degree from the city college.

The winners will be announced next week.

Emmanuel Camarillo has more on the competition here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

If you could invite three famous Chicagoans to a dinner party, who would you choose and why?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: If you could trade places with any city employee, what job would it be and what’s the first thing you’d do?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Parking enforcement — delete all outstanding warrants!” — Arlene Carter Kimbrough

“Park District. I would increase all the programs — sports, exercise, crafts music, etc. Bring in guest experts for lectures, instruction and demonstrations. Give the kids interested in the programs an opportunity to have their questions answered by the pros. Invite the neighborhood parents to come in and do a little volunteer work.” — Mary Ellen Brill Hikes

“CTA president. I’d shorten wait times and be militant about cleanliness.” — Denise Arteaga

“Mayor. I would hire more social workers and tackle the city’s homeless issue.” — Tom Krajecki

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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