Home > Public Domain Data > AirTags: Who’s watching who?

AirTags: Who’s watching who?

When I saw the announcement about Apple’s new AirTags, my first thought was to forget tracking the location of my personal possessions, I could use one of these to track my elderly, and occasionally forgetful, Mother. Attach an AirTag to her bag, subject to her consent, and I’d be able to keep an eye on her whereabouts when she heads out to walk her dog.

However, not long after the initial release and reassurances that location privacy was an integral part of the design, a software update for AirTags was made available to counter unintended or surreptitious tracking by other suitably enabled devices in the vicinity. The initial configuration for sending safety alerts for an AirTag separated from its paired iPhone or the presence of AirTag not owned by you but in some way tied to your location (nearby or slipped into a pocket?) and tracked by others, meant alerts were not triggered for three days if you didn’t have an iPhone with IOS 14.5 or had an Android phone. Given the number of iPhones in circulation and the extent of Apple’s Find My network, millions of people could be tracked unwittingly through AirTags and be none the wiser for three days. Even after an upgrade to iOS 14.5 and the AirTags software update, it could still take a couple of hours to alert an iPhone owner to the presence of a so-called stalker AirTag. Chances are nothing would happen but is broadcasting your location like this worth the risk?

In this day and age of heightened awareness of creepy apps, issues related to location tracking and so on, it seems odd this particular scenario hadn’t been considered as a potential security threat. As Brenda Stoylar noted in her Mashable article …

AirTags are easy to use and effective, but their extensive location tracking and ability to go beyond Bluetooth range is also what makes them dangerous for the rest of us.

What makes AirTags potentially dangerous to use is the lack of detailed information describing how they work and a lack of transparency in how location information is, or could be, collected.

  1. August 10, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    Great Article Joseph! In a similar vein a very popular coffee chain in Canada had been tracking locations using their reward app! 2,700 locations in 5 months inside and outside of the country! A great article appear on the financial post last year discussing this https://financialpost.com/technology/tim-hortons-app-tracking-customers-intimate-data

    • Jill Clark
      August 10, 2021 at 3:15 pm

      Joseph? 😁


      • August 10, 2021 at 3:22 pm

        Jill, sorry 🙂 picked the link of of his linked in to this post and didn’t see the author

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