At the start of the Mini-Tracker AirTags, Apple promised that the small tracking system would take user data protection into account. Experts are now reporting concerns that the protection against abuse is not as far off as the specialist magazine “c’t” reports.
The AirTags are small Bluetooth trackers (3.2 centimeters in diameter) that can be used to locate objects such as a keychain or bag. With special tags made of leather or plastic, which Apple sells as accessories, they can be attached to anything. However, they could also be used to clandestinely subjugate people or vehicles in order to pursue them. A criticism that Apple addressed early on.
To prevent this from happening so easily, Apple uses the loudspeaker integrated in the AirTags so that the tracker can acoustically draw attention to itself as soon as it is no longer in contact with the registered iPhone. That should then destroy any attempts at stalking. However, this acoustic signal is only given every three days.
Loudspeaker can be easily switched off
According to “c’t”, this acoustic safety precaution is not worth much. While a third-party AirTag in the vicinity can also be noticeable with a message on the screen for iPhone owners, this is not the case with all other cell phone brands and systems.
To deactivate the loudspeaker, all you need is a cordless screwdriver, with which a small hole is drilled in the loudspeaker coil – and this safety feature is already levered out. “Anyone who leaves the apartment as a result of domestic violence and seeks refuge in the future must expect to be tracked down by their partner within hours – because of an AirTag hidden in their suitcase, handbag or jacket,” says the “c’t” editor Mirko Dölle.
When asked, Apple confirmed that it would soon want to offer a solution for phones with the Android system. In addition, the frequency at which an AirTag reports acoustically should be shortened from “every three days” to “eight to twelve hours”.
Still a long time to follow someone at every turn, as colleagues rightly point out.