New York Times: Apple’s AirTags are a ‘uniquely harmful’ stalking threat

Reporters tracked down seven women who believed they were being stalked — one, it turns out, by her mother.

From Ryan Mac and Kashmir Hill’s “Are Apple AirTags Being Used to Track People and Steal Cars?” in Friday’s New York Times:

Researchers now believe AirTags, which are equipped with Bluetooth technology, could be revealing a more widespread problem of tech-enabled tracking. They emit a digital signal that can be detected by devices running Apple’s mobile operating system. Those devices then report where an AirTag has last been seen. Unlike similar tracking products from competitors such as Tile, Apple added features to prevent abuse, including notifications like the one Ms. Estrada received and automatic beeping. (Tile plans to release a feature to prevent the tracking of people next year, a spokeswoman for that company said.)

But AirTags present a “uniquely harmful” threat because the ubiquity of Apple’s products allows for more exact monitoring of people’s movements, said Eva Galperin, a cybersecurity director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who studies so-called stalkerware.

“Apple automatically turned every iOS device into part of the network that AirTags use to report the location of an AirTag,” Ms. Galperin said. “The network that Apple has access to is larger and more powerful than that used by the other trackers. It’s more powerful for tracking and more dangerous for stalking.”

My take: Classic network effect; its power grows exponentially with its size. In this story, the failure in Apple’s chain of abuse-prevention features are the police.

6 Comments

  1. bas flik said:
    in tracking your own stuf you will end up being tracked yourself.
    is live.
    all product invented can and will sometimes turn against you.
    even nature does.

    3
    December 31, 2021
  2. bas flik said:
    i would like some sales numbers of airtag.

    0
    December 31, 2021
  3. As I read the story I couldn’t help thinking about the important parts left out or glossed over. Competitor Tile’s product is inherently riskier yet has no protections against tracking people but Tile isn’t a big enough name to make it the focus of this story. Apple cooperates with law enforcement but the cops are mostly clueless about “new tech.” GPS Trackers have been an important law enforcement tool for many years. The story never follows through on most accusations except for a young woman’s mother admitting she used it to track her 17-year-old daughter. How many mothers will now emulate that Mom? The viral video of a foul-mouthed young woman was wild speculation, almost all refuted by the facts. Surprised NYT even cleared her raunchy diatribe that went round & round accomplishing zero. I was left with the impression most of those mentioned in the article regularly engage in risky behavior yet are surprised they’ve encountered unscrupulous people. Despite mentioning Apple can ID the owner of a device, alerts users and adds safety features (all lacking with Tile) the writer ends with this quote, “And you can’t do anything about it.”
    After resetting my iPhone it told me my own AirPods Pro were following me like a stranger.

    5
    December 31, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      “Surprised NYT even cleared her raunchy diatribe…”

      Why are you surprised? Bad news about Apple brings in the clicks and ad dollars. Were you expecting ‘actual journalism’ from NYT, or any other ad-funded media business?

      0
      December 31, 2021
  4. Lalit Jagtap said:
    Another great example of “worst quality” reporting by NYT about Apple business and it’s latest innovative product AirTag.

    1
    December 31, 2021

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