The Issue with Apple AirTags
Ever lose your keys? Could you have sworn you left your bag there? By creating the AirTag, a device that has the intention to help you track down your misplaced items, Apple sought to get rid of this problem. But what if the person using it had more malicious purposes?
March 2, 2022Author: Eric Burdick
What is an AirTag?
How Does it Work?
When you want to track your lost item, just simply open up your connected iPhone. A sound can be sent out to quickly locate the device when nearby. Depending on the iPhone version, the feature of precise location can be used. This points you to the exact location of your AirTag. Not only does this device help track items nearby, it can also be put into lost mode in the event that the item was left behind or stolen. Lost mode will notify the user locations the device was last seen through the Find My iPhone app.
Apple's Privacy Concerns
According to the official Apple website, the AirTag comes equipped with a few privacy features to prevent malicious tracking. If an AirTag not registered with your phone is nearby for too long, a notification is sent to the device that an unknown AirTag is nearby. If the device is still nearby, the option to send out a noise to find the AirTag becomes available.
While Apple tried to implement privacy features such as the ones above, these were able to benefit a user with more malicious purposes. To start off, the device is tiny and can easily be lost in a car or go unnoticed in a packed bag. This allows for a person to plant one in said places to track a victims location. Secondly, if the AirTag is used for malicious purposes such as stalking, the features Apple uses for privacy may end up putting the victim at risk. When an AirTag sends out a notification to nearby phones, this is sent out after a random amount of time - meaning a victim may not know an AirTag is on them until hours after it was planted. These devices are cheap and accessible as well. These seemingly helpful devices are simply tracking devices that nearly anybody can get their hands on and even modify.
“Silent” Air Tags
As of February 2022, a new modification has been starting to circulate on the Internet. These modified AirTags have been selling on Etsy with the simple modification of removing the speakers within. The purpose of this -according to the creator- is “to cater to the several requests of buyers interested in my other AirTag product who were interested in fitting an AirTag to their bikes, pets and power tools”. This seems slightly odd. The speaker was the main feature that tells where the AirTag is located and is a key feature in finding out a person is being tracked. Without the speakers, a victim will be notified hours later with no way to locate the device.
In summary, the AirTag is a simple coin-sized device that on the surface allows for the easy location of commonly used items such as wallets and keys. However, this is just a small tracking device that can be lost in items and used for malicious purposes such as stalking. Recently AirTags have even been modified to become more difficult to locate due to the lack of a speaker. While Apple implemented features to prevent such cases from happening, this was flipped around for purposes far from what the device was made for.