Apple Is Under Fire for Selling This to Customers
This product reportedly comes with big safety concerns.
From the iPhone to AirPods, Apple has been the tech giant behind some of the world's most popular products. But not every venture the company churns out turns to gold. Some of Apple's biggest flops include the Apple III computer of 1980, and Ping, the unsuccessful social media network it tried to roll out in 2010. Now, the tech company is under fire for one of its most recent product pushes. Read on to find out why Apple is dealing with backlash.
Apple AirTags have been linked to more than 100 stalking reports.
Apple AirTags potentially pose a major safety risk for users. Vice reported on April 6 that it had obtained police records mentioning AirTags from eight police departments throughout the U.S. for the last eight months. The news outlet received a total of 150 police reports mentioning AirTags, and a majority of these cases dealt with stalking.
According to Vice, less than half mentioned the product in relation to robberies or thefts. Fifty of the cases were from women who called the police because they had received notifications that they were being tracked by an AirTag they didn't own. And of those, 25 women said they could identify a man they knew—whether it was an ex, husband, or boss—who they suspected could have planted an AirTag on their car to follow and harass them, per Vice. The news outlet also reported that a significant number of the reports were from women, as only one case out of the 150 they received involved a man who had suspected that an ex-girlfriend was tracking him with an AirTag.
Experts have expressed significant concern over the safety of this product.
Apple first unveiled the AirTag in April 2021. According to the company, the small, coin-sized product can easily attach to most surfaces and you can track it through your Find My App. AirTags can ping and send out a Bluetooth signal that can be detected by other nearby devices. But while other tracking softwares have been available long before last year, experts say the size and affordability of AirTags—which costs $29—make them easier to use for stalking by sneaking them onto a car or in a bag.
"Stalking and stalkerware existed before AirTags, but Apple made it cheaper and easier than ever for abusers and attackers to track their targets," Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director at the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told Vice. "Apple's global device network gives AirTags unique power to stalk around the world. And Apple's massive marketing campaign has helped highlight this type of technology to stalkers and abusers who'd never otherwise know about it."
Apple has made a number of security updates to AirTags.
Apple has made moves to make this product harder to abuse. When AirTags were first introduced, only people with iPhones or other Apple devices would get notified that an AirTag was following them, according to Vice. "That was a completely ridiculous way to launch a new device, without having taken into account its use in a domestic violence situation … specifically, the blind spot that Apple had was people who live outside of the Apple ecosystem," Eva Galperin, the director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the news outlet.
But in Dec. 2021, Apple released an Android-based app called Tracker Detect, which was designed to help non-Apple users identify AirTags traveling with them, CNET reported. "If you think someone is using AirTag or another device to track your location, you can scan to try to find it," the app tells users.
"AirTag provides industry leading privacy and security features and today we are extending new capabilities to Android devices," an Apple spokesperson said in a statement to CNET at the time. "Tracker Detect gives Android users the ability to scan for an AirTag or supported Find My enabled item trackers that might be traveling with them without their knowledge. We are raising the bar on privacy for our users and the industry, and hope others will follow."
And the company has continued to stand by its product.
In Feb. 2022, Apple issued a new update on AirTags and "unwanted tracking." The company said it has been working alongside various safety groups and law enforcement agencies to identify more ways it can update the product's safety warnings and prevent concerns. According to Apple, this includes partnering with law enforcement to trace AirTags back to perpetrators, new privacy warnings during product setup, precision finding, and earlier notifications for unknown AirTags.
"AirTag was designed to help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or another person's property, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products," Apple said. "Unwanted tracking has long been a societal problem, and we took this concern seriously in the design of AirTag. It's why the Find My network is built with privacy in mind, uses end-to-end encryption, and why we innovated with the first-ever proactive system to alert you of unwanted tracking."