Apple's AirTags show homeless people's belongings in Oregon illegally dumped

The city of Portland is already facing a class-action lawsuit over similar actions.
The city of Portland is already facing a class-action lawsuit over similar actions. Photo credit: Getty Images

A Portland lawyer says he has proof that homeless people's belongings were illegally dumped by a city contractor - after attaching Apple's AirTags to them.

AirTags were released in May with privacy concerns raised at the time, particularly around the ability to track people without their consent.

Apple updated how the AirTags notified those around when separated from their owners - initially it happened after three days, but changed to a random notification time between eight and 24 hours from separation.

But that didn't appear to stop the contractor, Rapid Response Bio Clean, from ditching the 16 personal items that had the tags attached while cleaning out a homeless camp.

Michael Fuller, who had made a last minute legal attempt to halt the clearing of tents from Laurelhurst Park, attached the devices with the permission of the owners. 

They included a pair of gloves, a speaker, paintings and a French press. The signal from the AirTags showed they all ended up at a local waste transfer station, the Portland Tribune reports.

That, he says, is a breach of Oregan law which states that the city must retain all property that is "recognisable as belonging to a person and that has apparent use" when clearing out homeless campsites. 

That property should be stored for 30 days to allow the individuals to collect it and only disposed of if unsanitary or has no obvious use. 

And that wasn't the case here, with the items clean and useful, Fuller says.

"I practically begged the city not to move forward with the sweep to make sure property wasn't being destroyed, and the city ignored me. Now there's going to be legal consequences," he said.

"It completely vindicates what the homeless people have been saying all along."

Fuller says his clients will seek compensation if the city isn't able to adequately explain why their belongings were trashed.

The city is already facing a class-action lawsuit after four homeless individuals alleged contractors were illegally discarding their belongings.