AirTags Are Linked to Stalking, and Apple Can’t Solve This Problem Alone

Source: Cnet

Apple’s AirTags are meant to be a high-tech solution to an age-old problem: finding misplaced keys, wallets and other personal items. But since Apple launched the diminutive Bluetooth trackers last April, they’ve also been used for nefarious acts – particularly stalking.

“It was the scariest, scariest moment ever, and I just want everyone to be aware that this exists,” Sports Illustrated model Brooks Nader said in a January Instagram post. She was describing an iPhone alert she received one night while walking home from a bar saying that a device had been tracking her location. Nader’s husband discovered an AirTag hidden in her coat pocket after she arrived home, she said in an interview on the Tamron Hall Show.

Experts I spoke with say it’s incumbent on tech companies to come together and find better ways to prevent Bluetooth trackers from compromising personal privacy. That includes not just Apple, but also Samsung, Tile and other companies making similar products with fewer safeguards. They could start by providing information to each other and to  the public about how Bluetooth trackers are being exploited. Sharing findings on how their respective products are being used maliciously is critical for creating privacy protections that work equally well across all smartphones. It would ensure that all companies are operating on the same data when developing tools for preventing or mitigating abuse.

“I think that there are going to be limitations as long as the solutions remain with individual companies,” said Erica Olsen, director for the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Safety Net Project.

Apple has made efforts to prevent misuse by encrypting the communication between AirTags and its Find My network. The company announced on Feb. 10 that it’s adding new privacy warnings to AirTags during the setup process. It’s also further reducing the amount of time it takes to notify an iPhone owner that an unknown AirTag may be traveling with them.

The company said in a press release that it’s “committed to listening to feedback and innovating to make improvements that continue to guard against unwanted tracking.” But when approached by CNET,  Apple declined to say whether it would collaborate with other tech companies on a fix.