The announcement of Apple’s AirTag was met with a lot of positive reactions, but its best feature is seemingly its most concerning one due to a potentially dangerous loophole.
If you’re that person who always seems to misplace things like your keys, then Apple’s AirTag is the perfect investment for you because the device helps you precisely track down missing items or even your pets with the help of tracking software and your iPhone, of course.
When the tracking device was first announced, Apple made sure to address possible misuse of the AirTag in the form of potential stalking but, as with anything it does, was very vague with the details in regards to privacy protections built into the system. The issue with the AirTag is that it could be an affordable tool for abusers to keep tabs on their victims, being that one AirTag only costs $29, with a four-pack costing $99.
Now, normally if someone places an AirTag without your knowledge, your smartphone is supposed to send you an alert telling you that an active AirTag is in your area or on you. The alert is supposed to come rather quickly for iPhone users when you arrive at your home address or a location you frequently visit if you happen to have an unknown tag on you. But it could take up to three days for that same message to be sent to Android users.
FastCompany shared concerns from a nonprofit that focuses on the issue of domestic violence.
“Technology often comes with unintended consequences, explain representatives from the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a leading nonprofit with the goal of ending violence against women. NNEDV sits on advisory boards for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Uber and has consulted for both Google and Apple in the past (but not on AirTags). The organization’s representatives say that while Apple AirTags are a cheap, easy-to-use product to find a lost item, they are also a worrisome surveillance tool that could be leveraged by an abuser to discreetly track a partner. An AirTag simply needs to be slipped into someone’s bag or jacket pocket to track exactly where they go.”
“So abusers who live with partners using Android can constantly pair and re-pair an AirTag so that it won’t set off an alert, a problem so core to the design of AirTags I’m skeptical it can be fixed with a software tweak.”
“Three days won’t work if you’re going home every day to the same person tracking you. . . . That’s a learning space [that] hopefully Apple will consider and work to build in protections with that threat model,” says Corbin Streett, technology safety specialist at NNEDV. “[Apple] is thinking about the threat model where it’s a stalker who is walking by someone on the street they don’t know—that stranger danger model—but what about when it is the person you come home to every day?”
It definitely sounds like something Apple needs to address immediately.
Photo: Apple / Apple AirTag