AirTags and Other Bluetooth Trackers Boost Privacy After Stalking and Theft Incidents


Apple's AirTags and other Bluetooth trackers are meant to be useful, button-sized tools for tracking personal items and finding misplaced keys and wallets. But the devices have recently come under fire as they've been linked to criminal acts like stalking.

Bluetooth trackers like the AirTag, Tile and Samsung's Galaxy SmartTag devices are designed to help customers and yet are built with few privacy safeguards. Recent reports reveal AirTags have been used for stalking and theft attempts, with attorney generals in NY and PA issuing public safety alerts about the devices. A CT man allegedly used an AirTag to stalk his ex-girlfriend, hiding the device in her car, and was arrested this month. And last month, two women in Atlanta found AirTag devices hidden in their cars, with one finding the device in her gas tank.

Victims with Apple devices will often receive a notification that they are being tracked, alerting them that something is amiss. That was the case for Brooks Nader, a Sports Illustrated model, who received an iPhone alert while walking home from a bar.

"It was the scariest, scariest moment ever, and I just want everyone to be aware that this exists," wrote Nader said in a January Instagram post. She said her husband later discovered an AirTag in her coat pocket after she arrived home.

Apple has made efforts to combat the problem by encrypting communications between AirTags and its Find My network. It also announced this month that it would be adding privacy warnings to AirTags during the setup process. As an additional precaution, Apple said it would reduce the amount of time it takes to notify an iPhone owner if an unknown AirTag is in the person's vicinity.

"AirTag is designed with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking – a first in the industry – that both inform users if an unknown AirTag might be with them, and deter bad actors from using an AirTag for nefarious purposes," wrote Apple in a statement to CNET. "If users ever feel their safety is at risk, they are encouraged to contact local law enforcement who can work with Apple to provide any available information about the unknown AirTag."

Samsung users may scan for nearby unknown Galaxy SmartTags using the SmartThings Find app, but the app will not proactively alert them. Samsung's tags also routinely change their device IDs to prevent their Bluetooth signals from being tracked over long periods of time. User data is also encrypted. Samsung would not say whether the company plans to add a proactive alert feature but commented that it is "committed to providing secure mobile experiences to users."

Tile users cannot scan for nearby tags that don't belong to them, but the company is planning to launch a feature this year making that possible. The new Scan and Secure feature would enable anyone to search for nearby Tile tags using the Tile app, even if they do not have an account. The company said it is working with privacy experts and advocacy organizations as it develops the new feature.

Edited by Luke Bellos
Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox. [Free eNews Subscription]

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

Related Articles

ChatGPT Isn't Really AI: Here's Why

By: Contributing Writer    4/17/2024

ChatGPT is the biggest talking point in the world of AI, but is it actually artificial intelligence? Click here to find out the truth behind ChatGPT.

Read More

Revolutionizing Home Energy Management: The Partnership of Hub Controls and Four Square/TRE

By: Reece Loftus    4/16/2024

Through a recently announced partnership with manufacturer Four Square/TRE, Hub Controls is set to redefine the landscape of home energy management in…

Read More

4 Benefits of Time Tracking Software for Small Businesses

By: Contributing Writer    4/16/2024

Time tracking is invaluable for every business's success. It ensures teams and time are well managed. While you can do manual time tracking, it's time…

Read More

How the Terraform Registry Helps DevOps Teams Increase Efficiency

By: Contributing Writer    4/16/2024

A key component to HashiCorp's Terraform infrastructure-as-code (IaC) ecosystem, the Terraform Registry made it to the news in late 2023 when changes …

Read More

Nightmares, No More: New CanineAlert Device for Service Dogs Helps Reduce PTSD for Owners, Particularly Veterans

By: Alex Passett    4/11/2024

Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that transforms the lives of veterans (and others) suffering PTSD with vigilant service dogs, has debuted …

Read More