Are Apple’s Bluetooth AirTags A Privacy Nightmare?
AirTags are advanced and accurate trackers with Bluetooth connectivity that enables its users to find lost items.
US tech giant Apple announced the launch of AirTags at the 'Spring Loaded Event' that can help you locate your lost items anywhere in the world. However, some reviewers have now discovered a big loophole in the AirTag's privacy feature.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a leading nonprofit with the goal of ending violence against women believes that AirTags could become a stalking tool that could be leveraged by an abuser to discreetly track a partner.
Speaking to The Fast Company, Erica Olsen, a representative of NNEDV said that when somebody leaves an abusive person, chances are that stalking followed by assault can escalate. "It’s definitely a concern that people will be using any type of tracking product they can.”
How Do AirTags Function?
AirTags are advanced and accurate trackers with Bluetooth connectivity that enables its users to find lost items. You will be able to track the location of the AirTags via the 'Find My' app using an iPhone, an iPad, or a Mac.
AirTags have been priced in packs of one and four for Rs 3,190 and Rs 10,900 respectively.
In the event of losing any items, the device automatically sends out a notification when it’s detected by someone in the Find My network, so someone who finds your item can get in touch with you.
An AirTag uses combination of various technologies such as ultra-wideband (UWB), Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE), and Near-Field Communication (NFC) receivers, and an accelerometer for detecting movement.
This allows users to find their lost items via map direction, by triggering a sound from the AirTag, or via UWB which lets the user track their item precisely using wideband technology.
Can AirTags be Invasive?
While the purpose of designing AirTags was to track lost items, the product can also be used by criminals for 'stalking' purposes.
A report by The Fast Company reveals that a woman in US was being stalked by a man until she realised that the culprit planted a tracker in her car.
Explaining how surveillance devices can be a serious issue for survivors of domestic abuse, activist Olsen alleged that in many instances it has been found that perpetrators often use such devices by planting them in a bag or a stuffed animal to track the victim.
How Is Apple Addressing These Privacy Concerns?
Apple has built in some privacy protections , in order to stop stalking. For instance, if someone placed an AirTag in your bag, and if you own an iPhone, it will alert you that an AirTag that isn't yours is moving with you.
But you will receive an alert, only if you own an iPhone. Android devices are excluded since they can’t access the Find My network. However, Apple has a solution for such cases as well.
If an AirTag is separated for three days from the phone that it is paired with, it will make a sound to alert those nearby of its presence and to help find it.
This sound will act as a privacy alert for the victim and if the device was planted for the purpose of stalking.
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