In 2021, Apple came out with yet another innovation that would change iPhone user’s lives and make it all the more easier. The AirTag was designed and introduced to the world on April 20th 2021, and released on the 30th of April, 2021 as a tracking device that could essentially find small personal items, like keys, bags, as well as other electronic devices and even vehicles.
Apple used their Find My network that is crowd sourced and estimated an approximate of one billion Bluetooth signals worldwide. The AirTags were made to be compatible with any iPhone, iPad or other devices that were running on iOS 14.5 or later.
The AirTag has been welcomed by users worldwide, it has solved the miniscule day to day issues of constantly misplacing keys, wallets, etc. Some bigger uses for the AirTag were to track cars and checked in luggage. While there are a multitude of benefits of owning an AirTag, there are risks to it too. One of the major backlashes that Apple faced after the release was the stalking abilities of the AirTag.
Despite Apple taking precautionary steps to avoid such disturbing usage of their devices, it seemed fairly easy to trick the system put in place. Early on, it was even described as ‘a present to stalkers’. Some of the early concerns, to name a few were about the audible alarm that was built-in to the device taking around three days to make a sound, another concern was from Android users; who could not get a notification of an AirTag around them, causing them to stay in the dark. Though tough, people were finding ways to deactivate the speakers forcefully, allowing them to track people without them noticing.
The only way these incidents ever came to light, was through websites like eBay and Etsy where they were being sold without the speakers. These devices though creative and helpful, when fallen into the wrong people’s hand, can cause irreparable damage.
In January 2022, six women spoke to BBC News, talking about how they had found unregistered AirTags in their bags and cars, and had no knowledge of how long they had been there, or how they were placed.
After a multitude of stalking reports, the police have had to step in to take action on occasion. In 2023, two years after the release of the device, Apple and Google are uniting to find a viable solution to the issue. Google’s vice president of engineering for Androids, Dave Burke stated “Bluetooth trackers have produced tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential for illegal tracking, which requires industry-wide action to solve.”