- James Clayton & Jasmin Dyer
- BBC News
Amber Norsworthy lives in Mississippi, United States, with her four children.
It was 3 p.m. when he arrived home on December 27 and received a notification on his phone.
“My phone made a sound that I had never heard before,” he says.
The notification told him that an unknown device had been tracking his movements.
Norsworthy, 32, turned to the Find My app on his iPhone.
“He showed me my entire route. He was like, ‘The last time the owner saw your location was 3:02 p.m.,’ and I was like, ‘It’s now, I’m home.'”
He called the police, but they told him They did not know what to do. He had yet to find the device, and he believed it was somewhere in his car.
Based on his narrative, Apple customer service was able to confirm that it was an AirTag. “I watch my surroundings very closely now,” he says.
Possible criminal activities
The BBC spoke with six women in the US who say news been traced through aApple AirTag.
These button-sized devices are designed to work with Apple’s “Find” network to locate lost items. But there have been multiple reports in the US that the devices are being used to track people.
The tech company claims that AirTags have better security features than competing products.
However, there is growing evidence that they are being used to Criminal activities en todo EE.UU.
Apple launched its AirTags last April. They’re small, smooth, and round, and were inspired by other tracking products on the market, like Tile.
The idea is that they can be put in luggage, keys or anything you might lose. But in the wrong hands they can be used for a different purpose.
Cyber security on devices
“If you’ve created an article that’s useful for tracking stolen items, then you’ve also created a perfect tool for stalking,” says Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“I personally spoke to several people who found AirTags in their stuff,” he adds.
Apple knew long before AirTags were released that they could be used for criminal activity. when throwing them, Apple said that “heThes AirTags are designedThes to track items, not people”.
They created a series of security measures that they said would protect people from being tracked.
Those with an iPhone would be alerted if an unregistered AirTag was moving past them. And AirTags would beep when separated from their owner for a period of time.
In December, the company also released an app that Android users can download. Tracker Detect allows users who do not they use in the iOS operating system are notified of an unauthorized AirTag.
But for various reasons, many believe that these safeguards are not enough.
“I was pretty scared”
Anna Mahaney is from Georgia. She was alerted to an unknown device after going to a shopping mall.
“I was pretty scared and tried to disable it. Every time I did, it said it couldn’t connect to the server.” He went to an Apple Store, where they suggested that he should turn off his location settings.
When he went to the local police, they told him that there had been another similar report in his area. She thinks the device is somewhere in her car..
One of the women contacted by the BBC said she had found an AirTag taped to the inside of a bag. Others were unable to locate the devices.
They all have questions about whether Apple is doing enough to prevent its products from tracking people.
Apple says the AirTag will beep between 8 and 24 hours after a moving device with an unregistered phone is detected. But it’s easy to register an AirTag and then deactivate it.
Mahaney recounts being told by Apple customer service that this might be why it couldn’t find the AirTag: “It seems like what might have happened in my case was that the person who owned the AirTag tracked me down until I got home and then he turned it off.”
The problem for Android users
This isn’t the only potential security hole in Apple’s AirTag. The app designed for Android users to find an unwanted AirTag has been downloaded on a small percentage of phones.
The BBC asked Apple for figures on how many times the app was downloaded on Google Play, Android’s default app store. Apple didn’t answer it, but Google Play puts the figure at around 100,000 downloads. To put that fact into context, there are about 3.000 millions of Android devices assets around the world.
There are also issues with the beep that plays after an unwanted AirTag is detected.
“AirTags beep at 60 decibels and it’s really easy to silence,” says Galperin.
“I could muffle it by simply closing it in my fist. I could muffle it by placing it between two sofa cushions. It’s impossible to hear it by placing it, say, under the bumper of your car,” he adds.
And the noise only starts to play after eight hours. Critics argue that by then It’s too late.
In Bloomingdale, Illinois, a police force warned local residents about AirTags.
“We thought it was important to notify people in our community that this is a problem,” says Frank Giammarese, director of public safety for Bloomingdale Police.
“The technology is great, but unfortunately…some people have misused it.”
There are those who believe that Apple is being unfairly attacked.
The BBC asked its main competitor, Tile, what it was doing to protect the public from being tracked on their devices.
Tile responded that it was “developing a solution” that would identify an unknown device near people. But that fix hasn’t been released yet.
The counterargument is that AirTags are very good at being located by a registered iPhone. The “Find” network uses almost 1.000 Millions of Apple devices around the world, and its Bluetooth connectivity, to create precise and long-range tracking.
“I want Apple to require these devices to ask for permission before they can follow you,” says Mahaney. “With ‘Find,’ if my husband wants validation, I have to approve it and give it to him. I can not understand why can a stranger follow me and i don’t have to give my consent“, he points out.
Norsworthy thinks AirTags shouldn’t go on sale until Apple can figure out how to better alert people: “They should stop selling them for a period of time until they can work out some security limits.”
Galperin thinks Apple needs to create better safeguards: “I want them to work with Google to give Androids the same level of background auto-detection that they already have for iPhones.”
The BBC raised these criticisms of Apple, with the company responding: “We take customer security very seriously and are committed to the privacy and security of AirTag… If users ever feel that their security is at risk, they areThes encourages to contact the authorities locales, which may work with Apple to provide any available information about the unknown AirTag.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.