COLUMBUS, Ohio — Efforts in Ohio to formally ban unwanted electronic tracking with devices like Apple AirTags took a major step Wednesday, more than a year after a 3News Investigates report brought renewed attention to the practice.
Senate Bill 100, which would "generally prohibit a person from knowingly installing a tracking device or application on another person's property without the other person's consent," unanimously passed the upper chamber one day after clearing the Financial Institutions and Technology Committee. The bipartisan legislation is jointly sponsored by state Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and State Senate Minority Leader Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood), who admitted they were encouraged to act after WKYC's Lynna Lai and Phil Trexler shared the story of an Akron woman who did not know she was being tracked by an Apple AirTag.
"When we first heard about this, all I could think of was, '[This is] one more opportunity for someone to victimize,'" Antonio told Lai. "Frankly, [we were] encouraged by your reports and hearing that this was an issue."
Kar'mell Triplett first came forward to share her experience in February of 2022, discovering the AirTag had been monitoring her movements for about 24 hours. She believed an ex-boyfriend placed small device in her car, but despite the potentially dangerous implications, 3News Investigates found that such behavior could technically be perfectly legal under Ohio law.
State lawmakers drafted legislation to close that loophole last year, but it failed to pass before the end of the legislative session. Still, the efforts, continues, with Triplett herself testifying before the Financial Institutions and Technology Committee in support of SB 100.
"Please, I urge you to protect us," Triplett told the senators, adding she felt compelled to buy a gun at just 21 years old due to fearing for her own life. "I never thought I'd have to protect myself, because the laws in place wouldn't do that for me."
The measure will now be referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee for further consideration, and the House is also considering a tandem bill with very similar language to SB 100. Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) introduced House Bill 91 after WKYC presented our findings to House members and lobbied for new legislation.
"The genesis of House Bill 91 was actually brought forward by you," Patton told Lai earlier this spring. "Technology is wonderful, but when it can turn around and bite you, we've got to see if we can't come up with enough punishment to make people think twice before they do it."
Both HB 91 and SB 100 would make electronic stalking a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 180 days in jail. Patton told 3News this afternoon that members of the House Criminal Justice Committee may opt to use SB 100 as the vehicle for this new legislation, through they may introduce some minor amendments which the Senate would then have to approve.
According to WKYC's analysis, at least 19 states currently have laws against electronic tracking without a person's knowledge.