When AirTag was announced, many people raised concerns about the item-tracker being used in a malicious manner. This worry has been reinforced by a new report from Fast Company in which experts from the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) have stated that AirTags could be used by an abuser to track a partner.
AirTag can easily be attached to objects or everyday items like purses, school bags, and keys to quickly locate them. The product works with the recently announced Find My network to anonymously share location across Apple’s network of iOS devices.
AirTags could be used by an abuser to track a partner
The National Network to End Domestic Violence, a nonprofit whose goal is ending violence against women explains to Fast Company that while AirTags could be a helpful device for finding a lost item, they can also have a sinister use for abusers who want to track their partners. The nonprofit sits on advisory boards for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Uber.
“When somebody tries to leave an abusive person, or they are planning to leave, that can be one of the most dangerous times that stalking and assault can escalate,” says Erica Olsen, safety net project director at NNEDV. “So it’s extremely important if people are planning to leave an abusive person, they’re able to do so without the person tracking them down and finding them. It’s definitely a concern that people will be using any type of [tracking] product they can.”
In a statement to Fast Company, the tech giant outline reiterated its commitment to user privacy and said AirTag is designed to discourage unwanted tracking.
“We take customer safety very seriously and are committed to AirTag’s privacy and security. AirTag is designed with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking—a first in the industry—and the Find My network includes a smart, tunable system with deterrents that applies to AirTag, as well as third-party products part of the Find My network accessory program. We are raising the bar on privacy for our users and the industry, and hope others will follow.”
These safety features include the Find My app notifying iPhone users an unknown AirTag is found moving with them or in close proximity to them with a message on the screen. The same message will also appear for users that are not operating an iOS device, i.e. NFC-enabled devices. The item-tracker will make a sound when separated from its source iPhone after three days. However, NNEDV’s technology safety specialist Corbin Streett pointed out that “three days won’t work if you’re going home every day to the same person tracking you.”
“I lose my keys and wallet all the time!” said Streett. “But how do you build it in a way that those folks who are in relationships, so that this can’t be used against them? I hope Apple keeps their learning hat on and works to figure out that piece of the puzzle.”
Despite all the positivity surrounding AirTags, concerns around the item-trackers perpetuating stalking and abuse are genuine and should not be looked over. From everything Apple has said so far in regard to the item-trackers being used in a malicious way, it is clearly aware of the issue. Even though its statement to Fast Company does not address all concerns brought forth by domestic violence advocates, hopefully, the tech giant will continue to keep the safety and privacy of users in mind.
Found an unknown AirTag moving with you? learn how to disable it here.