Apple's AirTag is quickly becoming the perfect tool for stalking Android users


Posts: 1,030   +769
The problem isn't cars getting stolen - not fun - but that is what insurance is for - it's stalkers .
Here in NZ - you use to be able to get the post office to print out the registered address of any car for US $3.00 - think they have put in some protection now - but I think car dealers etc have full access . I mean stalking is hard to stop .
Maybe all future trackers unless registered for certain business or specific private use need publicly broadcast every x minutes . Ie permit to conceal .
Yes you will buy Chinese ones - with some built in override mechanism- you search online for , or plainly not compliant , likewise - someone could make one .
The point is to remove easy , simple ways .
Maybe someone will make an anti-tracking device - ie it will send out all the common codes to trigger nearby trackers - that can be updated ( not sure if 2 way communication - but some trackers can beep on command I think )
The average Joe has been able to buy them for ages. Apple is extremely late to the game. Businesses have been putting trackers on company vehicles since GPS has existed. Tiny cheap GPS trackers are nothing new.

"Businesses" aren't stalking women and exotic cars. That's not the issue.
I don't believe for a moment that Apple were so naive and innocent that they did not know their product would be used in this manner from the outset.

They aren't dumb people running Apple. They've managed to become and remain THE fashion tech brand for the last 2 decades, you don't get that crown and keep it if you aren't intimate with human behaviour and know how to manipulate it. They come up with every conceivable angle to stop people fixing their own devices and force a planned obsolescence schedule on their customers. You can't do that if you don't understand how people, even a minority, will use their devices "improperly".

If a negative use case is obvious to the lay customer, you can bet your bottom dollar Apple already thought of it. That they didn't release with a mitigation, and their post launch mitigation isn't really that effective should tell us that Apple knows people will use their devices in crime and simply don't care.

Apple's legal team would have been all over this product with a fine tooth comb looking for exposure and risk to Apple. But ultimately if a customer "misuses" a device that is the responsibility of the customer not the vendor. So without legal repercussion, why would Apple care?

Some people have pointed out that tracking devices have been around for a long time, but that's a bit disingenuous. Yes they have but not in this category.

GPS trackers for vehicles such as by LoJack have existed for many decades now but they cost between $200 - $1500 initial outlay, require at least physical access to the OBDII port inside the vehicle as a minimum and most require to be fully installed with a wire harness under the bonnet. They are bulky (easily detectable) and require a subscription service linked to your name to function.

OzSpy have been willing to sell me a tracking transmitter for around $70 for the last 30 years. But it requires additional equipment in the form of a receiver and antenna bringing the total cost to around $200. It also only has a 300m range, so if you're tracking a vehicle you have to keep up with it.

Options from Tile, Samsung, etc started appearing around 2013, so 9 years ago. These initial devices were ranged, mostly using Bluetooth as their connection so they had a real world limit of 10m - 15m and a theoretical limit of 50m. They also came out priced at $79

Banggood and AliExpress have been selling Chinese trackers cheaply for about 6 years now but they weren't ubiquitous. You had to know to be looking to find them so they weren't a huge problem.

Apple doing offering a tracker that is so easy to operate and doesn't require anything you don't already have, for $24 makes AirTags disposable. Moreover it puts a spotlight on trackers and their possible uses, and it means more mainstream brands will replicate. That really is actually a problem.

I think this is another case of technology outpacing the law. The law needs to be updated to include this category of device, and to create legal repercussions not just for the perpetrator but for the manufacturer where adequate steps were not taken to mitigate. If we raise the risk and exposure to Apple you can bet that we'll have full mitigation of all these problems within weeks, a month tops.

One way we can force that bar to move higher and highlight the issue to legislators is through a class action. I'm honestly surprised there isn't one already (please correct me if there is). Those who fell victim to these devices should all group together in a class action against Apple. By setting a legal precedent now we're going to stop bigger problems in the future.
The average Joe has been able to buy them for ages. Apple is extremely late to the game. Businesses have been putting trackers on company vehicles since GPS has existed. Tiny cheap GPS trackers are nothing new.

The way a business tracks vehicles is very different to AirTags. For starters those systems cost anywhere between $200 - $1500 and critically have to be installed. The plug and play devices require physical access to the OBDII port, the rest are hardwired and require access under the bonnet.

Those systems cross GPS so they have publicly accessible unique identifiers. They also require a paid subscription to a tracking service in order to track the vehicle. A subscription that binds the asset to a name, authorised persons, phone number, address and payment details in the same way an monitored alarm system does.

They likewise aren't small devices. The smallest of them is the size of an average male fist.

They're very different products to a $24 AirTag bearly larger than a sticker, using proprietary mesh beacon technology and automated account sign up. AirTag makes tracking others disposable, discrete & anonymous.