The dangers of Apple's AirTags tracking technology

28th October 2023
Paige West

The concept is simple yet ingenious: attach an AirTag to your belongings, and you can track their location via the Find My app on your Apple device. It was designed to make our lives easier by helping us find lost items quickly and efficiently.

Certainly, the benefits of AirTags are vital, eliminating the frustration of lost possessions. But what about uninvited tracking? As Josh Gordon, a Geonode expert, articulated: "Technology always brings about new possibilities, both positive and negative. It's essential to examine them critically."

The dark side emerges

However, like many technological innovations, AirTags have been misused. Criminals have discovered that these tracking devices can be used to stalk individuals discreetly. The compact design of AirTags makes them easy to conceal, and they can be surreptitiously placed in a person's bag, car, or other personal items without their knowledge.

How AirTags can be abused

The potential for abuse with AirTags lies in their ability to continuously send location data to the owner via the Find My network. When an AirTag is in proximity to an Apple device, it can transmit its location anonymously, alerting the owner to its presence. However, this also means that a malicious individual can use an AirTag to secretly track someone's movements without their consent.

Concerns for personal safety

The use of AirTags in this manner raises significant concerns for personal safety and privacy. Victims of stalking or harassment may not be aware that they are being tracked, making it challenging to take precautions. It's a form of digital surveillance that can be difficult to detect, especially if the victim does not own an Apple device to receive alerts.

Here are a few steps Apple has made to mitigate these privacy concerns:

  • Alerts for unknown AirTags: if an AirTag that does not belong to the user is detected moving with them, their iPhone will notify them
  • Sound alerts: AirTags emit a sound after a period of inactivity when separated from their owner to alert those nearby
  • Android compatibility: Apple is working on enabling AirTags to work with Android devices, extending safety measures beyond the Apple ecosystem

But these measures don't necessarily seem to be enough.

Greater risks for non-iPhone users

Android users, who represent a large chunk of the global smartphone market, aren't alerted if there's an unknown AirTag around them. While Apple has announced plans to develop an app for Android to address this issue, it's evident that more needs to be done.

How to protect yourself: actionable measures

In light of the potential risks associated with AirTags, it's essential for individuals to take precautions to protect their privacy and safety:

A more secure tech future

Geonode expert Josh Gordon advises: "Consumers need to balance the advantages of new technologies with privacy trade-offs. Employ a critical lens when dealing with tech, question ethical aspects, and make sure you have all the information before committing."

As we move forward, it's pivotal to remember that while technology can offer enormous benefits, it might also harbour a dark side. As end-users, conscious consumption and scrutiny are our best defences against misuse.

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