So my son and I were discussing AirTags and if they could be used for creepy tracking. He has very small children and is concerned that AirTags create a chance for someone to place it on/in his kids “stuff” and track them back to where they live. For example from school or daycare to their house.
So we took my wife’s AirTag from her key ring and put it in his car. We were at the same location, a movie theater in a neighboring town. He left and went home, we did the same. On the way home my wife watched as her tag moved along the route he took home, then when he parked in his garage it told her the exact address her tag was located.
This took about 30 minutes, the tag didn’t make a noise, it did not alert him to it’s presence for 3 1/2 hours, when he got a notice on his phone that a tag not belonging to him was somewhere in his presence. We left the tag there overnight, we didn’t click “lost” in Find My but still, this tag didn’t alert him to it’s presence in his vehicle for 3 1/2 hours. That seems like a long time and a dangerous security vulnerability. Also, my daughter in law has an iPhone and it never alerted her phone that a tag was nearby at all.
I have 4 tags, but not sure I want to support this product if it is so easily usable for creepy stalking actions like this.
There’s definitely a balance here and I don’t have the right answer, but playing devil’s advocate - if someone swiped my laptop bag I certainly wouldn’t want them to be alerted to the AirTag before I contacted the authorities.
I’ll say this - Apple has incorporated the best solution to date for privacy and security amongst the trackers, but I don’t know how you make a foolproof product that prevents creeping and still works for users who aren’t maliciously using it.
I wonder whether, once the creepy AirTag has been discovered, the owner can be identified.
That would help reduce the likelihood someone will try something.
Interesting discovery, that.
I do not feel that tracking someone’s location was really a problem before AirTags. Creepy people can still physically follow you and track you, it’s even more accurate and cheaper.
Also in order to put an AirTag on someone, they literally need to be touching them physically and get closer by and hide it in one their belongings. I feel we should be more concerned that someone was able to do it that easy not the fact they planted AirTag.
I like how I get notified about the AirTag and I can actually disable it if I want to.
What I mentioned above is by no means defending AirTag, but more of whether this is really a critical concern or not. I am very big on privacy and I don’t like the idea of people knowing anything about me, unless I give them the permission.
My two cents…
I’m interested to know how quickly a court order can procure owner details from Apple in this scenario. If someone drops a GPS tracker with a sim card in your bag, you can obtain ownership of the cell account and use that information for a restraining order or a charge. That’s assuming you find it, since those kinds of trackers won’t alert their presence the way AirTags do.
I agree that Apple is doing it the best way of any of the Trackers. I also agree, like so many things with our tech, there is a spectrum to balance our personal security with the security of our devices. I have one on my keys and one in my backpack. I will likely switch one to my luggage when I travel again. I think the convenience outweighs the risks and I also argued to my son that tracking people has always been possible if the person wanted to target someone. There has been the means and I am not sure AirTags changes that, it is just another tool to be utilized. Frankly it might be better because you at least have to have an Apple ID.
Look at it this way: Suppose, instead of removing the tag from your wife’s purse, your wife’s purse was left in the other car accidentally. Presumably you would want the tag to do exactly what it did during your test.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to have small children these days. But the AirTag, while perhaps best in class, is just a “me too” device.
There were 15 million Tile trackers out there before the first AirTag saw the light of day. And other companies like Chipolo now sell trackers that use the Apple network. These devices are just going to continue to improve and become less expensive.
You know, as horrible as the very notion is, try not to think too much about it. You and your son can be proactive. I’d educate your kids. As an early childhood teacher, a former juvenile probation officer and a kid lover, I’d make sure they know their address and phone number. You’d be shocked how many don’t. And what they should do in case of different emergencies. While not scaring them, walk them through it for instance in case of fire, you stop, drop and roll. Just review different scenarios with them. Do it periodically. Kids are considerably smarter than we give them credit for.
They need to know how to yell. How to get an adult to listen to them in case of an emergency.
Most pedophiles are people you know NOT strangers. Let them know if they ever get icky feeling to let you know right away even if it doesn’t mean anything.
If they get lost or need assistance and don’t see a police officer etc, to ask a woman for help. VERY rarely are they pedophiles and while they may not want to help, at least they likely won’t hurt them.
Your son can use those air tags by having the kids keep one in a lil purse, a backpack, a pocket (probably get lost), around the neck. I’d show them what they look like, what they are for so they know no one else is supposed to give them one.
Let me know if you want any more input. This is a subject I’ve tried to stress with the kids and I have thought long and hard about it. I plan on writing a book about how kids can best manage themselves. I don’t know how old they are but they need to be assertive rather than scared (or at least a lot less scared).
Came across this series of tweets that shows a real world occurrence of tracking a stranger. I can’t imagine the level of creepiness that somebody would have to do to attach it to another person’s car. Also imagine if the person didn’t have an iphone, then they could be followed without them knowing.
I believe that Apple has made detection available for Android phones as well.
Yes. Leo Laporte tried it on an android phone this week, but it didn’t detect the AirTag in his pocket.
I read an article on 9to5Mac about the Twitter user and what happened to her. Adds some interesting background for this conversation.
I think it’s instructive that they link to “gps tracker” as a search on Amazon, as AirTags is just the most famous of the devices that can accomplish this. The demands on that Twitter thread to outlaw AirTags seem pretty reactionary.
If Apple hadn’t at least tried to build in some protection against this sort of thing, that AirTag would still be on her car and she’d be none the wiser.
Good to know. I thought this point was useful
“One detail that the Twitter thread gets slightly wrong is the idea that the AirTag is fully anonymous. It is true that the live location updates of the AirTag are end-to-end encrypted, and only known to the owner of the tag. However, in case of abuse, Apple does keep records of which AirTag serial numbers are associated with which Apple ID. So if a police investigation was brought forward, with a valid court order, it is possible that Apple could identify the original purchaser of the found AirTag.
Although it should be whichever apple id is tied with it, not the original owner.