Big brother, I mean Apple, is under fire for their ability to track people using one of their products, the AirTag.
Just like the Tile, the AirTag was created to attach to items the user owns so they can find them easily. They use Bluetooth for close-range tracking and a community app network for long-range tracking. The AirTag also uses an Apple-designed U1 wideband chip for the precise location with specific Apple iOS devices. They seem pretty similar, but the Tile software is not built into any fixed operating system and only works with the community long-range tracking when the Tile app is installed on a device. However, the iPhone iOS comes with the Find My app built into the device software. With almost a billion Apple device users, the available network of phones for the AirTags to bounce location data back is never-ending as long as there’s someone with an iPhone nearby.
There are several examples of how these could be used maliciously including stalking, theft, etc. Reports of misuse, from the York Regional Police in Canada, are stating thieves could attach an AirTag in a public place, like a mall or shopping center, then use that to track the vehicle and owner to the home where the thief would then steal the vehicle.
According to Screenrant, “Bluetooth is not the sum of an AirTag and both Find My [app] and ultra-wideband [chip] are designed to help where Bluetooth can’t. For example, when outside of the Bluetooth range, the Find My network can be used to find the general area of an AirTag, making it possible to initially locate a lost or missing item from great distances. Once within range, Bluetooth can take over. Then, when within a close enough distance of the device, the short-range ultra-wideband helps to ensure the exact location of an AirTag can be identified, even when Bluetooth is having issues pinpointing the item.”
To combat people’s inherent circulating fear, Apple has created a beta version update which includes new options in the Find My app allowing users to search for orphaned AirTags and learn how to disable them or return them to their owner. Apple will alert your iPhone if an unwelcome AirTag, that is not registered to you, is found in your proximity. They also have created a notification beep that the AirTag makes between 8 – 24 hours of separation. If you’re an Android user you should know that the only way for you to find out is to hear the AirTag beep or physically find the device until the app. The AirTag is said to only chime once. Apple suggests following up with the police if you feel unsafe.
The Apple AirTag tracking trend is a cause for new concerns. Instead of worrying about being drugged at a bar you now have to consider someone slipping an Apple AirTag into your purse and tracking you back to your home. Stay safe.