The Washington Post bemoans that Apple’s AirTags may be used for stalking

In an article published by The Washington Post on Wednesday, Geoffrey A. Fowler bemoans that Apple’s AirTags may be used for stalking.

The Washington Post bemoans that Apple's AirTags may be used for stalking
Apple’s AirTag

Geoffrey A. Fowler for The Washington Post:

Apple’s new AirTags, $30 wireless devices that help you locate things, work well. Frighteningly well.

Clip a button-sized AirTag onto your keys, and it’ll help you find where you accidentally dropped them in the park. But if someone else slips an AirTag into your bag or car without your knowledge, it could also be used to covertly track everywhere you go. Along with helping you find lost items, AirTags are a new means of inexpensive, effective stalking…

To discourage what it calls “unwanted tracking,” Apple built technology into AirTags to warn potential victims, including audible alarms and messages about suspicious AirTags that pop up on iPhones… I got multiple alerts: from the hidden AirTag and on my iPhone. But it wasn’t hard to find ways an abusive partner could circumvent Apple’s systems. To name one: The audible alarm only rang after three days — and then it turned out to be just 15 seconds of light chirping. And another: While an iPhone alerted me that an unknown AirTag was moving with me, similar warnings aren’t available for the roughly half of Americans who use Android phones…

MacDailyNews Take: On and on this hit piece drones. This joke of an article only exists because the maker of AirTag is named Apple.

As Fowler himself admits, “Apple has done more to combat stalking than small tracking-device competitors like Tile, which so far has done nothing.”

Clearly, a non-Apple tracker, none of which offer any warnings whatsoever and many of which cost less, would be a stalker’s best choice.

These types of products are nothing new and, in fact, there are less expensive, even more efficient (GPS-based, no less) devices that could be misused by stalkers as evidenced by a simple 2-second search on Amazon for GPS Trackers, which currently returns some 800 results, none of which offer Apple AirTag’s, or any, anti-stalking technology.

AirTag sends out a secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby devices in the Find My network. These devices send the location of the AirTag to iCloud — then the owner can go to the Find My app and see it on a map. The whole process is anonymous and encrypted to protect users’ privacy. And itʼs efficient, so thereʼs no need to worry about battery life or data usage.

Only the AirTag owner can see where the AirTag is. The owner’s location data and history are never stored on the AirTag itself. Devices that relay the location of the AirTag also stay anonymous, and that location data is encrypted every step of the way. So not even Apple knows the location of an AirTag or the identity of the device that helps find it.

AirTag is designed to discourage unwanted tracking. If someone else’s AirTag finds its way into your stuff, your iPhone will notice it’s traveling with you and send you an alert. After a while, if you still haven’t found it, the AirTag will start playing a sound to let you know it’s there.

Now, all that said, Apple will need to take a look at tweaking easy-to-alter things like how long it will take AirTag to start making a noise when it has been separated from its owner’s other devices (currently three days, which is likely too long if stalking is the issue), but, for iPhone users, who will be notified via their iPhones that a foreign AirTag is present, AirTag has a useful anti-stalking feature built-in that no other trackers offer.

43 Comments

    1. What a mess Apple has been creating in the competition! No wonder TILE want to appeal! ROFL! They will have to level up the game while shrinking sales gonna take place… ROFL!!!

  1. Washing Post aren’t the only ones. Look, it’s insane that these things don’t make a peep for 3 days and only give quick notifications to iPhones that a person is being tracked.

    This means someone can put a tracker on an Android user and get free stalking for 2.9 days.

    After 3 days the AirTag makes a modest 60db tweet for 15 seconds every couple of hours. If the tag is wrapped tightly this sound becomes even more muted.

    But even worse, if your stalker encounters you and the AirTag every 2.9 days, long enough for their iPhone to ping the AirTag, they can keep stalking you indefinitely.

    And worse still, if you’re close enough to the stalker that they can access your phone they can turn off the notifications and stalk you constantly.

    This stalking includes super precise measurements of where you are at all times, including specific addresses, and notifications of your movement.

    This is unacceptable, and I expect Apple to change the settings very soon. It’s all fun and games until you’re sexually assaulted in your own backyard by some creep who saw you on the subway and dropped an AirTag into your purse. He didn’t even need to follow you home. He just waited until 10pm, tracked you with his phone and waiting in your backyard for you to take out the dog.

    An unmitigated fiasco.

    1. Well, there are other Bluetooth-based tags (Tile) and dozens (or hundreds?) of different mini GPS-based trackers that are all much better suited to stalkers. Hard to get upset at Apple, the one company actively working to prevent stalking with its devices.

      1. You don’t think Apple’s technology is best in class? For $29 you get a UWB tracker that accesses over a billion iOS devices, gives precision location information down to how many feet away and at what exact angle. It’s dead simple to set up and employ. If it’s a best in class tracker then it’s a best in class tracker.

        Apple should creat a cross-platform application that monitors nearby AirTags and alerts someone if one is moving with them.

        They should make the audible alerts turn on after 4 hours, not 72 hours.

        They should consult with domestic abuse experts as to other mitigation strategies, including perhaps the possibility for someone to scan their person on demand to ensure no AirTags are present that aren’t registered to the user. This should perhaps be allowed to happen in the background on a schedule, so people driving home from work each day know their phone has checked that they’re clear

        1. No question Apple will learn a lot and make changes as the technology goes into use. There are only so many scenarios you can predict and attempt to mitigate before something as complex as this is in the wild.

          Android devices will detect an AirTag, though it will only provide the owner’s information if the AirTag is registered as “lost” (something a stalker wouldn’t do).

          I’m not sure we want AirTags separated from their owners chirping too early. Imagine what it would sound like at the luggage carousel after every flight. Or any office each morning, with items left overnight by dozens of you coworkers.

          These scenarios will not be easy to predict.

        2. Dear HIGO: We’re so sorry that you shorted Apple and are still drowning—thus, your desperation to claim such outrage. Apparently, you have zero confidence in technology to come up with ingenious solutions to public needs. You’d still be screaming about the invention of the wheel if you lived back then—”It could fall off and hurt somebody!” “I had a vision of a future where our descendants are whizzing around uncontrollably faster than a cheetah can run!!” 😱

          Relax, Grasshopper. Non-Apple phone makers can readily come up with methods to remedy your fears. Sensors that can sense a tracking gizmo; maybe Apple will download a slight software mod that lessens the Android scaredy-cats’ misgivings.

          While you wait, remember this. Anyone, at any time, can place a bomb on or under any vehicle and you’d never know. And rather than constantly swiveling your head like Regan in The Exorcist, you’d be blown to smithereens. 💥

    2. “It’s all fun and games until you’re sexually assaulted in your own backyard by some creep who saw you on the subway and dropped an AirTag into your purse.”

      It depends on what he looks like.

    3. Wow talk about hyperbole, far easier and more practical devices are available to use if you really want to do that and the weirdos who want to do so will know or easily find out about them. The unmitigated fiasco is that it seems no one has really been interested to do anything about it or limit their sale …. yet suddenly the moment Apple produces a device far less suitable for that purpose and makes people aware the risk they have unknowingly already faced it all becomes important. The hypocrisy from the likes of you simply stinks to the point indeed where one might wonder if all the publicity about such devices potential is troubling you for some other less enlightened reason.

      As for Android I suspect when a mutual or individual solution is suitably agreed/produced they will gain a warning too of its presence. That’s far more than the increasingly common competitors can be expected to supply so maybe best to attack them self righteously instead or is that asking too much?

    4. See… in Android, a developer can freely develop an app that disables the feature, even at the OS level, even in the hardware (something Apple doesn’t allow). And if Google rejects it, it can e offered in other Android stores or even directly from the developer.

  2. Headline: “The Washington Post bemoans that Apple’s AirTags may be used for stalking”

    We already have the Liberal media for that!

    Why, even at this moment, we have the media masturbators of CNN down in AZ taking pictures of car license plates of people doing AZ forenzic audit to do what exactly? Dox them to BLM/Antifa?!?

    1. Ever since Leftist BOZO bought the Post, it was always liberal, but it had more respect and engaged in good journalism. At times, anyway.

      CNN is a TOTAL joke extension of the Democrat Party Pravda spewing WOKE falsehoods and in this case, the license plate collection will likely be used to HARASS and STALK good citizens that threaten the party.

      Welcome to the USA gatekeepers of the socialist gulag, comrades…

        1. The amount of lies spread by the communist new networks is staggering.

          The amount of new hidden by the communist new networks is staggering.

          The depth of stupidity required for the libturds not to know this is staggering

            1. The Guardian is U.K.’s equivalent of Wash Post and NYT run by far Leftist propagandists spewing much of the same garbage. You want unvarnished truth in a U.K. newspaper, try The Daily Mail.

              Look, we all know Trump spoke many falsehoods and exaggerations. But I don’t think he set out to consciously and deliberately scheme to LIE in the same DEFENSIVE vein as the Clintons, looking you straight in the eye or camera lens. Historical examples of both: Bill, “Never Had Sex With That Woman” and Hillary, “Like With A Cloth?”

              All old news, the Biden BIG POLITICAL LIE present day is Georgia passed Jim Crow 2.0. Biden has lied and plagiarized for most of his 50 year swamp career, but this is the most irresponsible lie of his tenure.

              If Trump said something remotely blatanly FALSE, the media outrage would be deafening and non-stop 24/7, and what the hell, let’s try again for a third impeachment…🤣

            2. Ahh, no Dean…for times when you want to sway opinions with some sort of non-partisian confidence, you will get an “F” again, if/when you use the Guardian for veracity of your point.

              No, The Daily Beast wouldn’t be a good option either. No, I suggest staying aways from Slate too. Please, CNN?…why do you even need to ask!

          1. Not too long ago, Democrats hated Big Pharma. Talk about some people needing anti-psychotic medications!

          2. Gazing and long posing in the mirror again, narccistic one. Go outside they just sent you a special delivery Democrat Drug Drone Drop if they can find that wealthy Tx county garage you live in FAKE CONSERVATIVE… 🤣

      1. GoeB: Right you are. Hey folks! Look up your history. Ever hear of the Soviet Union? 30,000,000 victims (dead) under that “socialist” version of torture. China’s Mao version has achieved more than double that. Bozo’s paper should be referred to as The Post/Pravda from now on. BTW, the Dumb-o-crat looters and burners can’t wait to get that list of license plates and addresses—just watch.

        1. I think the public has a legitimate interest in knowing who is involved in this “audit.” The guy running it was not selected because of his elections experience—he and his company have none—but because he was already committed to the conclusion that the Republican caucus in the Arizona Senate wants him to reach. At least one of the “elections workers” brought in for the “audit” is facing federal criminal charges for the US Capitol invasion. The “auditors” are keeping the press out and are fighting Freedom of Information requests to explain what they are doing with their taxpayer funding and who is involved in their project. The press wouldn’t be doing their job if they weren’t trying to pierce the veil of secrecy.

          Bear in mind that the aim of this “audit” is to prove that the Maricopa County Recorder was clever enough to throw the election to Biden, but not clever enough to win his own race for reelection.

        2. Right on, C! 👍🏻

          You remember how Sonny gave C his name in “The Bronx Tale?” Could not find the specific scene video, but it reminds me of plain spoken wisdom telling it like it is…

  3. A few years back, a coworker bought one of those $20 spy cams on Amazon. It was a tiny Cmos camera built into a USB charger. He was suspicious that his apartment manager was entering his apartment while he was at work, and used it to monitor his apartment . . . a friend said, “Bring that spy cam into work, I’d like to see what it looks like . . . Fast forward a few days, and he gets called into the Boss’ office, “We understand that you have been secretly videotaping people at work” . . . Well, the whole thing got sorted out — but it just shows how “paranoid” people are about being secretly videotaped — which is ironic for several reasons: 1) There are video cameras in the business, so the Boss is recording you (and he can read your email), 2) When a person pulls out a cell phone, they are potentially recording you, and 3) These hidden devices have been around for years, so if someone wanted to videotape you, they could (and they wouldn’t tell you– “Hey, I bought a spy cam”)

    1. Exactly it’s generally the dodgy types who hate these things becoming mainstream and make a massive fuss in the name of privacy fearing it’s their sleazy privacy stealing machinations becoming publicised to the masses helping them protect themselves from that warped minority.

    1. Samuel Clemens started his career in the newspaper biz — contributing articles to his older brother Orion Clemens’ newspaper, The Hannibal Journal.

      Is he calling himself a misinformer?

    2. Exactly Bill and great quote. Today reading a newspaper is equivalent to reading the brainwashing woke Democrat Party platform. My dog has more brains…

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