Apple announced AirTags, which are trackers that support the Find My network, back in April. Tile trackers have been around for years, so the notion behind them isn’t new. Apple, on the other hand, has a tendency to promote a product category once it develops its own version of it. Wireless earbuds, for example, were not as popular before Apple debuted the AirPods.
Because AirTags are now a very inexpensive, widely available, and well-known commodity, stalking has become more convenient and accessible to a wider range of predators. Don’t get us wrong: AirTags are fantastic things, but they’re also a privacy and security problem that Apple isn’t taking nearly seriously enough.
Following the rollout of AirTags, you’ve probably heard about an increase in auto thefts. They’re being used by thieves to mark cars that are parked in secure areas. They’ll then use their iPhones to track them down and take them when the owners aren’t looking. On Twitter, a user named Jeana revealed the most recent horror story. As she drove home after a night out, she received a notice on her iPhone alerting her to an unknown AirTag following her about. Fortunately, Jeana realized that returning to her residence that night would have disclosed her whereabouts to the stalker. She was able to locate the AirTag affixed to her car’s tire well and remove it with the help of a friend.
Why Apple is to blame for AirTag-related incidents
Availability, precision, and popularity are all factors to consider.
When you have a lot of power, you also have a lot of responsibility. We can’t deny that Apple’s products have a global impact on the tech industry. The company’s release of AirTags without sufficient privacy safeguards is risky and irresponsible. Tile trackers and AirTags are not comparable since they:
i. aren’t as commonly available as they formerly were.
ii. don’t have as extensive a discoverability network as Apple’s Find My.
iii. are not manufactured by an Apple-like company. Even if the former isn’t the initial product, some people have heard of AirTags but not Tiles.
AirTags attach to other internet-connected Apple gadgets and send location updates to their owners. AirTags operate as live trackers in populous regions, thanks to the widespread use of iPhones, particularly in Western countries. These trackers have become the most practical and “innocent” stalking gadget due to their compact size, one-year battery life, and low $29 price tag. And Apple isn’t doing nearly enough to safeguard users against this double-edged sword.
Support for the Platform
Apple must continue to ignore the elephant in the room: the world does not revolve only around its goods. For the ordinary user, I believe iOS is a better operating system than Android. However, the company’s introduction of AirTags without sufficient privacy alerts on Android phones is exceedingly irresponsible. It isn’t the Tracker Detect app, which was introduced earlier this month.
Most non-technical Android users have probably never heard of Tracker Detect. Those who have it installed also don’t have to worry about background scanning. You won’t have the same piece of mind as iPhone users until you manually check the app every now and again. Users on iOS 14.5 and later will be automatically warned if an unfamiliar AirTag is following them around, which is how Jeana discovered she was being followed.
Now adjust one aspect of Jeana’s story: the operating system on her phone. If the lady had been using an Android phone and wasn’t aware of or actively utilizing Tracker Detect, she would not have discovered the hidden AirTag, and the stalker would have discovered her location.
Fortunately, she had an iPhone and was able to recognize and respond appropriately. Apple is putting a lot of people in danger by not releasing a good Android app or even establishing a protocol with Google that works on a system level (without the need to install an app).
The multibillion-dollar firm has no excuse because an independent developer has already published an app that analyzes the environment for AirTags automatically. People who don’t use Apple products shouldn’t feel helpless or scared because they don’t utilize the company’s products.
When an iPhone or Android user finds a misplaced AirTag, they can scan it using NFC. This would usually show the owner’s contact details, allowing them to recover their misplaced property. AirTags, on the other hand, can be reconfigured to route those who scan them to phishing sites. A well-intentioned person who isn’t paying attention could easily become a phishing victim.
Furthermore, Apple does not provide any effective anti-stalking options for those who do not have access to a phone, such as children. A predator may smuggle an AirTag inside a child’s backpack to track their movements and find out where they live. Don’t even get me started on domestic violence and people stalking their unwitting spouses.
AirTags are fantastic things, which is precisely why they are so dangerous. Until Apple adds sufficient privacy and security measures to make abusing them as difficult as possible, they’ll continue to be a common tool for crimes like theft, rape, kidnapping, and even murder.