When the AirTag first launched, there were a lot of concerns about its safety and privacy. Many believed that the tracking tags could make it easy to track anyone. On its part, Apple highlighted several privacy measures built into AirTags to ensure they cannot be used to track anyone. However, it looks like these measures are not enough as the AirTags make it “frighteningly easy” to stalk anyone.
A Washinton Post reporter allowed his colleague to track him using an AirTag for a week. While the reporter’s iPhone did warn him about an unregistered AirTag moving with him and the tracker did ring after three days, the measures are not enough and can be easily circumvented by most. The warning about the unknown AirTag will only show up on iPhones, which means one can easily use it to track Android users.
As for the alarm, the problem with it is that it rang for only about 15 seconds and it was not loud enough.
The sound measured at most about 60 decibels from three feet away — not much louder than the birds singing outside my window. And it lasted only about 15 seconds, after which the AirTag went silent for several hours and then started chirping for another 15 seconds.
The speaker volume is quite easy to muffle by applying pressure on the white plastic cover of the AirTag. If someone manages to sneak an AirTag into tight car seats or tap, the victim might never be able to hear the sound. And even then, the alarm ringing after three days still gives one plenty of time to stalk someone. An Apple executive defended the timeframe saying it did not want to disturb customers who borrowed an AirTag from a family member.
Apple’s Drance said when the company chose that window, it was weighing how alarms might disturb customers who are just borrowing a family member’s backpack or leave an item accidentally behind. “We wanted to balance how these alerts are going off in the environment as well as the unwanted tracking,” she said.
There can be scenarios where an abuser who is stalking their victim ends up meeting them before the three-day period, thereby resetting the AirTag countdown. This means the AirTag will never make a sound, and the victim will never know they are being stalked.
It is clear that there’s a lot Apple can do to ensure AirTag cannot be used for stalking purposes. As the company gains more feedback about AirTag’s usage in daily life, it might come up with better security measures. But as things stand right now, the AirTag can be used to stalk anyone easily.[Via The Washington Post]