AirTag Anti-Stalking Measures 'Just Aren't Sufficient' Says Washington Post Report

The safeguards that Apple built into AirTags to prevent them from being used to track someone "just aren't sufficient," The Washington Post's Geoffrey Fowler said today in a report investigating how ‌AirTags‌ can be used for covert stalking.

airtag 1
Fowler planted an AirTag on himself and teamed up with a colleague to be pretend stalked, and he came to the conclusion that the ‌AirTags‌ are a "new means of inexpensive, effective stalking."

Apple's safeguards include privacy alerts to let iPhone users know that an unknown AirTag is traveling with them and may be in their belongings, along with regular sound alerts when an AirTag has been separated from its owner for three days.

Fowler said that over a week of tracking, he received alerts both from the hidden AirTag and from his ‌iPhone‌. After three days, the AirTag being used to stalk Fowler played a sound, but it was "just 15 seconds of light chirping" that measured in at about 60 decibels. It played for 15 seconds at a time, went silent for several hours, then chirped for another 15 seconds, and it was easy to muffle by applying pressure to the top of the AirTag.

The three-day countdown timer resets after it comes in contact with the owner's ‌iPhone‌, so if the person being stalked lives with their stalker, the sound might not ever activate.

airtag privacy alert
Fowler also received regular alerts about an unknown AirTag moving with him from his ‌iPhone‌, but pointed out those alerts aren't available to Android users. He also said that Apple does not provide enough help locating a nearby AirTag since it can only be tracked by sound, a feature that didn't often work.

I got multiple alerts: from the hidden AirTag and on my ‌iPhone‌. But it wasn't hard to find ways an abusive partner could circumvent Apple's systems. To name one: The audible alarm only rang after three days -- and then it turned out to be just 15 seconds of light chirping. And another: While an ‌iPhone‌ alerted me that an unknown AirTag was moving with me, similar warnings aren't available for the roughly half of Americans who use Android phones.

The planted AirTag on Fowler kept his colleague well-updated with his location information, updating once every few minutes with a range of around half a block. While Fowler was at home, the AirTag reported his exact location, all using his own devices thanks to Apple's Find My network.

The ‌Find My‌ network is designed to make it easier to find a lost Apple device or item attached to an AirTag by utilizing hundreds of millions of active Apple products around the world. If you lose an AirTag and someone else's device picks it up, the lost AirTag's location is relayed back to you, and this also applies to ‌AirTags‌ tracking people.

Apple's vice president of ‌iPhone‌ marketing Kaiann Drance told The Washington Post that the safeguards built into the ‌AirTags‌ are an "industry-first, strong set of proactive deterrents." She went on to explain that ‌AirTags‌ anti-tracking measures can be bolstered over time. "It's a smart and tunable system, and we can continue improving the logic and timing so that we can improve the set of deterrents."

She also commented on some of the safeguards. Apple chose a three day timeline before an AirTag starts playing a sound because the company "wanted to balance how these alerts are going off in the environment as well as the unwanted tracking." Drance declined to say whether Apple had consulted domestic abuse experts when creating the ‌AirTags‌, but she said that Apple is "open to hearing anything from those organizations."

Fowler admits that Apple has done more to prevent ‌AirTags‌ from being used for stalking than other Bluetooth tracking device competitors like Tile, but there are still concerns that need to be addressed. Fowler's full report that goes into more detail on how he mimicked being stalked and the shortcomings that he found in the ‌AirTags‌ can be found over at The Washington Post.

Related Forum: AirTags

Top Rated Comments

cmaier Avatar
7 weeks ago
It’s easy to muffle while pressing the top! (Um, who is pressing the top to muffle the sound while this attempted stalking is happening. I am very confused)
Score: 72 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheLinkster Avatar
7 weeks ago
Sounds like Bezos is prepping his own product.
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Analog Kid Avatar
7 weeks ago
This is one of those things where after hearing forever that Apple isn't the first to make a device, they're now the ones being pilloried for it simply because they tried a little harder to help and fell short of perfect, right?
Score: 69 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PatrickCocoa Avatar
7 weeks ago
The Washington Post doesn't like AirTags? Great, now I have to buy AirTags.
Score: 67 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Martinpa Avatar
7 weeks ago
I'm going on a hunt for a similar article from around the time the first generation Tile came out... don't wait for me...
Score: 66 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonproject Avatar
7 weeks ago
Remember all the great anti-tracking features Tile had? No? Oh...
Score: 57 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Says iOS Picture-in-Picture Coming to All US Users

Friday June 18, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
After a long wait, YouTube for iOS is officially gaining picture-in-picture support, allowing all users, non-premium and premium subscribers, to close the YouTube app and continue watching their video in a small pop-up window. In a statement to MacRumors, YouTube says that picture-in-picture is currently rolling out to all premium subscribers on iOS and that a larger rollout to all US iOS...
Top Stories 63 Feature

Top Stories: Beats Studio Buds Announced, Apple Watch Series 7 Rumors, and More

Saturday June 19, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
The Apple news cycle started to move beyond WWDC this week, but that doesn't mean there still wasn't a lot to talk about, led by the official debut of the much-leaked Beats Studio Buds that might give us a hint of what to expect for the second-generation AirPods Pro. With no hardware announcements at WWDC, we also took a look at when we might finally see the long-rumored redesigned MacBook...
ios wifi settings

iOS Bug Causes Specific Network Name to Disable Wi-Fi on iPhones

Sunday June 20, 2021 4:15 am PDT by
A wireless network naming bug has been discovered in iOS that effectively disables an iPhone's ability to connect to Wi-Fi. Security researcher Carl Schou found that after joining a Wi-Fi network with the name "%p%s%s%s%s%n" his iPhone's Wi-Fi functionality was left "permanently disabled." Changing a hotspot's SSID did nothing to correct the problem, with even a reboot failing to make a...
maxresdefault

Video: 20 Annoyances Apple Fixed in iOS 15 and macOS Monterey

Friday June 18, 2021 11:36 am PDT by
With iOS 15 and macOS Monterey, Apple is adding several quality of life improvements, which are designed to address some of the complaints that people have had with these operating systems for years now. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In our latest YouTube video, we're highlighting some of our favorite "fix" features that address long-running problems in iOS and...
16 inch macbook pro m2 render

When Can We Expect the Redesigned MacBook Pros Now?

Wednesday June 16, 2021 7:11 am PDT by
With no sign of redesigned MacBook Pro models at this year's WWDC, when can customers expect the much-anticipated new models to launch? A number of reports, including investor notes from Morgan Stanley and Wedbush analysts, claimed that new MacBook Pro models would be coming during this year's WWDC. This did not happen, much to the disappointment of MacBook Pro fans, who have been...
space gray magic accessories trio

Apple Stops Selling Magic Accessories in Space Gray

Friday June 18, 2021 9:16 am PDT by
Apple this week stopped selling its Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse 2, and Magic Trackpad 2 accessories for the Mac in a Space Gray color, around three months after discontinuing the iMac Pro, which also came in Space Gray. Last month, Apple listed the Space Gray accessories as available while supplies last, and the company has now removed the product pages from its website...
m1 v intel thumb

Intel Processor Market Share May Fall to New Low Next Year Due to Apple Silicon

Friday June 18, 2021 2:06 am PDT by
Intel may see its market share fall to a new low next year, in large part thanks to Apple's decision to move away from using Intel processors in its Mac computers and instead use Apple silicon. Apple announced last year that it would embark on a two-year-long journey to transition all of its Mac computers, both desktops, and laptops, to use its own in-house processors. Apple is expected to...
3nm apple silicon feature

Apple Supplier TSMC Readies 3nm Chip Production for Second Half of 2022

Friday June 18, 2021 6:59 am PDT by
Apple supplier TSMC is preparing to produce 3nm chips in the second half of 2022, and in the coming months, the supplier will begin production of 4nm chips, according to a new report from DigiTimes. Apple had previously booked the initial capacity of TSMC's 4nm chip production for future Macs and more recently ordered TSMC to begin production of the A15 chip for the upcoming iPhone 13,...
2021 back t0 school

Apple Launches 2021 Back to School Promotion: Free AirPods With Eligible Mac or iPad Purchase

Thursday June 17, 2021 4:56 am PDT by
Apple today launched its seasonal back-to-school sale for the upcoming school year in the United States and Canada, offering students free AirPods alongside purchases of select Macs and iPad models. Similar to last year's promotion, this year's offer includes free AirPods alongside the purchase of a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, the new 24-inch iMac, the Mac Pro, Mac mini, and the new M1-powered ...
applecare lower prices

Apple Lowers Prices of AppleCare+ Plans for M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro

Thursday June 17, 2021 7:33 am PDT by
Apple today lowered the prices of AppleCare+ plans for MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro models equipped with the M1 chip. Coverage offered by the plans, as well as accidental damage fees, appear to remain unchanged. In the United States, AppleCare+ for the MacBook Air now costs $199, down from $249. The new price applies to both M1 and Intel-based MacBook Air models, although Apple no...