Apple AirTags are about to take the iPhone market by storm. While usually the words “a cheap and tiny device you can slip into a bag and then track via an iPhone” would sound like a privacy nightmare, this new product seems to be anything but that. In fact, Apple AirTags present an excellent example for others to follow.
How does the Apple AirTag work?
For those not in the know, an Apple AirTag is a tracker tag/dongle/thingie that you can clip onto your keys, your bag, probably your cat, etc. Should you misplace the item at home, you can whip out your iPhone and use it as if you were an ’80s action movie hero, orienting yourself via direction arrows and beeping. This is accomplished via the U1 chip – first introduced in iPhone 11, it allows for much greater precision than Bluetooth or GPS.
If you still can’t find the item you’re looking for, but you’re within Bluetooth range, you can make the AirTag play a sound, which should make the search easier.
If you lose the AirTag’d item somewhere else, you’ll have to rely on the Find My system that Apple has been using since 2019. Much like a lost iPhone, an AirTag will send its location whenever another Apple product comes within range, using this distributed network to give you at least a good starting spot for the search.
Why would you fear Apple AirTags?
Potential AirTags fears:
- Being AirTag’d by a stalker
- Being tracked by Apple
- Potential for location logging
So the Find My network makes AirTags really powerful in an urban environment. And that’s where the stalking fears come in. With cities brimming with iOS devices, why not just get an AirTag and slip this small token on someone you want to track?
At $29 for a single tracker or $99 for a pack of four, AirTags place a good stalking option within reach of casual consumers at an up-front price much lower than what you’d find on general spy hardware stores. And unlike those specialized devices, it doesn’t come with a subscription cost, nor does it require you to go out of your way to deal with some unknown brand.
And of course, there’s the question of Apple tracking you with greater precision than ever. And what kind of non-intuitive yet ingenious use for data collected by the AirTag network would the corporation come up with?
AirTags and air-tight security
However, we’re happy to report that Apple took those considerations into account and offer an array of privacy and security features.
AirTags’ awesome security features in a nutshell
End-to-end encryption keeps you hidden even from Apple
Rotating Bluetooth identifiers to prevent third-party tracking
Alerting iOS users if an unknown AirTag is detected on them
Option to disable found AirTags with NFC-capable devices
No data stored on the AirTag itself
Playing sounds if the AirTag is away from the user for an extended time
To prevent stalking, your iOS devices will be able to detect and notify (via an “AirTag Found Moving With You” message) that you’ve been traveling with an unknown AirTag near you. Also, if AirTag detects that it has been away from the owner for a prolonged period, the device will emit a sound to alert people around it. Then you can use an NFC-capable device to either deactivate it or get the owner’s contact information.
As for keeping the intended user of AirTags safe, the AirTag frequently changes its Bluetooth signal identifiers to stop third-party tracking. And if those parties get your Tag, they won’t be able to use it against you. The device itself doesn’t store any sensitive data.
At the same time, the Find My feature uses end-to-end encryption so that not even Apple knows the location or the identity of people or devices participating in the search. This keeps you private both from hackers and Apple itself.
AirTags should set a trend for the IoT market
Often, the world of the internet of things devices is plagued by suspicions of collecting data and the unknown benefactors of this collection. Devices often lack basic security, leading to home appliances that compromise your privacy at home. Apple taking care to prevent malicious uses of their new product is like a breath of fresh air. Hopefully, other manufacturers will follow suit.