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