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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Review sees if Apple’s AirTag prevents stalking with mixed results

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Replace an AirTag battery by showing: Push in and twist counter clockwise on the metal to openSource: Joe Keller / iMore

Apple’s AirTag may have more work to do to deter stalking.

A new review from The Washington Post put AirTag to the test when it comes to potential stalking issues. Geoffrey A. Fowler had his colleague Jonathan Baran slip an AirTag into his bag and try to stalk him across San Francisco for a week. The purpose was simple: would Geoffrey get alerted enough to realize he was being tracked by someone else?

While he did get alerted, he found mixed results. For one, the audible alert from the unwanted AirTag only rand after three days. And, while his iPhone did get an alert quite quickly, those aren’t currently available to Android users. So, theoretically, someone could stalk an Android user for three days before they would be alerted that they were being tracked.

I got multiple alerts: from the hidden AirTag and on my iPhone. But it wasn’t hard to find ways an abusive partner could circumvent Apple’s systems. To name one: The audible alarm only rang after three days — and then it turned out to be just 15 seconds of light chirping. And another: While an iPhone alerted me that an unknown AirTag was moving with me, similar warnings aren’t available for the roughly half of Americans who use Android phones.

AirTag battery coverSource: Joe Keller / iMore

Kaiann Drance, Apple’s Vice President of iPhone Marketing, said in an interview that the system is tunable, so Apple can change the timing and conditions of alerts as they understand more of what is needed to prevent these kinds of misuse.

“These are an industry-first, strong set of proactive deterrents,” Kaiann Drance, Apple vice president of iPhone marketing, said in an interview. “It’s a smart and tunable system, and we can continue improving the logic and timing so that we can improve the set of deterrents.”

Drance did not confirm whether or not Apple consulted domestic abuse experts when developing AirTag, but said that “we are open to hearing anything from those organizations.”

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It does appear that Apple does the most to deter these kinds of abuses with its item tracker when compared to competing trackers like Tile, but scrutiny in this area is critical to ensure that even more is done where appropriate.

You can read the full review at The Washington Post.

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