Apple Airtag

Apple Airtag

Apple
Bluetooth

Review date: Nov. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Not creepy

Losing your stuff stinks. Finding your stuff is amazing. Apple entered the tiny Bluetooth tracker game with their new Airtags. These little, round trackers can slip into or be attached to almost anything. Once there, you can track your stuff — wallets, backpacks, cars, your favorite teddy bear — as easily as saying, "Hey Siri, where's teddy?" A speaker on the tracker will let you know where it's at if you are in Bluetooth range. You can also use the Find My app to tap into the community of millions iPhone, iPad, and Mac users around the world to also help track your tiny tracker. Yes, there are privacy concerns. Yes, Apple has taken steps to address these privacy concerns. Here's hoping it's enough.

What could happen if something goes wrong?

Apple’s Airtags raised a bit of a fuss when they launched earlier in 2021. Every review we saw said two things about the Airtags. One, they work great. Two, they might work too great. The problem? They seemed too easy to use to track non-consenting humans without their knowledge. Which is pretty creepy.

Fortunately, Apple listened to their users and made some quick changes to mitigate these concerns. They shorten the time it takes for an Airtag to play a sound after it is separated from its owner from three days to between 8 - 24 hours. This is great to help alert someone who might have had an Airtag slipped in a bag or car to use to stalk them. Apple also said they would release an Android app so Apple users weren’t the only ones who would get notifications if an Airtag was nearby. This is OK, although it still puts the onus on non-Apple users to download and install that app. Still, we’re glad to see Apple took people’s privacy concerns seriously and is working to make things better.

Overall, Apple does a pretty good job with privacy and security as a company. They say they don't share or sell your data and Apple takes special care to make sure your Siri requests, like asking Siri to find your wallet, aren't associated with you, which is great. Apple did face backlash in 2019 when it came to light their contractors were regularly listening in on confidential personal conversations when they were reviewing the voice assistant's recordings. Apple changed their policy so users weren't automatically opted-in to human voice review.

Apple did recently suffer a bad security vulnerability that resulted in spyware that could allow bad actors to record calls and messages and even turn an iPhone or iPad camera and microphone on without the user knowing. Apple did patch the security vulnerability. This is a good reminder that even the best companies can be vulnerable to high level hacking.

What’s the worst that could happen with Apple’s Airtags? While we’re happy to see Apple take steps to prevent them from being used to stalk or spy on people without their consent, that’s still a concern. There are sites on the internet that tell people how to disable the speaker in the Airtag so it can’t alert someone it’s been hidden in their car or purse. A bad person using an Airtag to stalk someone without them knowing is pretty dang creepy. But, that could also happen with any of the Bluetooth trackers on the market. It’s just that Apple’s Find My network is huge, with millions of users, making Airtags potentially the scariest, and the best, tracker on the market.

Tips to protect yourself

mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: No

App: N/A

Microphone

Device: No

App: N/A

Tracks location

Device: Yes

App: N/A

What can be used to sign up?

iPhone or iPad is needed

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Apple says it does not share your data with third parties for commercial or marketing purposes.

How can you control your data?

Apple retains personal data only for so long as necessary to fulfill the purposes for which it was collected, including as described in their Privacy Policy or in their service-specific privacy notices, or as required by law. No specific data retention details are provided.

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Needs Improvement

Apple had a recent serious security vulnerability. From Firewall Times: "In September 2021, researchers discovered that a spyware called Pegasus had infected iPhones and other Apple Devices via a ‘zero click exploit’, granting the spyware broad power over a users’ device. Once infected, the spyware could record calls and messages and even turn the device camera and microphone on without the user knowing. Pegasus was produced by the NSO Group, an Israel-based company that sells its spyware to governments such as Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Though this spyware would presumably be used to surveil terrorists and criminal enterprises, these governments have also used it to spy on activists, politicians, and journalists. As of September 13, 2021, Apple has patched the exploit."

Can this product be used offline?

Yes

Bluetooth connection is still required to use the device.

User-friendly privacy information?

Yes

Apple has a webpage highlighting its privacy principles and features. Apple begins its privacy policy with a statement of principles. While this statement is very long, it is clearly broken out into relevant topics.

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

Strong password

Not Applicable

Security updates

Yes

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Apple has a bug bounty program, which means that anyone who finds a security issue and discloses it responsibly may get paid. https://developer.apple.com/security-bounty/

Privacy policy

Yes

Does the product use AI? information

No


News

I found my stolen Honda Civic using a Bluetooth tracker. It’s the latest controversial weapon against theft.
The Washington Post
AirTags and other Bluetooth trackers can find stolen cars, bikes and bags. But what happens when you find the person who took them?
The Best Bluetooth Tracker
New York Times
Tile’s new lineup of Bluetooth trackers—our pick if you use an Android phone—all perform well. But AirTags are still a better choice when paired with iPhones.
Apple updates AirTags to address stalking concerns
Engadget
Apple has updated AirTags in order to address privacy concerns associated with the Bluetooth trackers.
Stop Pretending Apple and Amazon's Bluetooth Networks Can't Be Abused
Gizmodo
While we can all agree networks like Amazon Sidewalk and Apple’s Find My, which enables AirTag’s tracking abilities, might make losing things a lot less annoying, we’re not talking seriously enough about how to prevent them from being abused.
Someone can track you with a Tile or AirTag – Red flags you’re being followed
Komando.com
Here’s what changes Apple is making and how to know if trackers are being used against you.
Remember, Apple AirTags and ‘Find My’ app only work because of a vast, largely covert tracking network
The Conversation
While clearly useful, AirTags can also potentially be misused. Concerns have been raised they might facilitate stalking, for example.
AirTag review: They work great—maybe a little too great
Ars Technica
Apple made the most privacy-friendly tracker, but that's not saying much.
AirTag anti-stalking measures tested — and they're not good enough
Tom's Guide
The Apple AirTags are a $29 solution to the problem of losing your keys, but concerns about privacy features are already being raised just a week after the tracker's release.
I tracked my kid with Apple's Airtags to test its privacy features
CNN
I clipped a keychain with one of Apple's tiny new Bluetooth trackers, AirTags, onto my son's book bag and waved goodbye to him on the school bus. I watched on my iPhone's Find My app as the bus stopped at a light a few blocks down from our street.
AirTag vs Tile: What's the Difference?
Gear Patrol
Tile's trackers and Apple's AirTags both do essentially the same thing: help you find your personal belongings if they get lost. So, what's the difference and which is right for you?
Apple Data Breaches: Full Timeline Through 2021
Firewall Times
Below, we’ll go into detail on the full history of Apple breaches, starting with the most recent.
New Tile Devices Prove That AirTags Have Room For Improvement
Forbes
Tile might have been first, but it was clear they'd need to deliver a resounding response to Apple in order to keep their market share. They delivered.

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