Apple AirTag Abuse
So, this has been a recurring story in the news this year, we have spoken about this in the Digital Law News, in depth.
Starting at the beginning, a swimwear model went viral on Tik Tok talking about her experience being stalked by someone who had planted an AirTag in her pocket. This story then spiralled, with many other people reporting nefarious uses of AirTags such as being used for stalking (to the point that the BBC published a story dubbing the tech accessory as the ‘perfect tool for stalking’; stealing, tracking; with people even finding AirTags in their cars!
And while AirTags will make a beeping sound between 8 and 24 hours after the device is detected this beeping sound only emits a 60-decibel beep. This is roughly equivalent to the sound of an air conditioning unit (https://decibelpro.app/blog/how-loud-is-60-db-compared-to-other-volumes/). While sound is somewhat subjective to the distance you are away from it, 60 decibels is still not very loud. In this specific report (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-60004257) an individual mentions the fact that you can muffle this sound by closing your fist over the device. You can now see why this may be a problem, as people can be tracked to within 0.1 feet, demonstrating the sheer amount of accuracy that you may be able to track someone to. This tracking is not done by your typical GPS trackign, no this uss other nearby Apple devices as low level bluetooth in order to track your location.
As a result of this initial story, Apple have made some changes to their guidance on AirTags. As part of the changes to make misuse harder, Apple said every user setting up their AirTag for the first time will see a message warning that using the device to track people without consent is a crime in many regions around the world.
Currently, iPhone users (and Android users who download an app) receive “unwanted tracking” alerts if an unknown AirTag moves with them. Apple announced that people will be alerted earlier that an unknown AirTag is travelling with them.
And when people are warned of “unwanted tracking” by an AirTag, users of iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 devices will be able to use “precision finding”, to see the distance and direction to an unknown AirTag when it is in range. Previously only the owner of the AirTag could do this.
While these changes are welcome in relation to the misuse of these Internet of Things (‘IOT’) devices are a step in the right direction, we will have to wait and see what additional features will be added as a result of making the AirTags more safe for use in everyday life. If you would like to see a test of the Apple AirTag features in action linked is a 5 minute video (https://www.wsj.com/video/series/dalvin-brown/testing-apples-airtags-how-to-tell-if-youre-being-stalked/F0536956-670A-47B5-89EA-6CC3EB623746).