Apple Must Give Android Users A Way To Detect Local AirTags To Avoid Stalking
Thanks to the Epic lawsuit, we know that Apple does not want to include Android users when it comes to its own apps and services. Locking down the ecosystem is a real thing for all tech companies, and usually it’s just a downside when no cross-platform solution exists. With AirTag, it’s more. Much more.
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This is due to the AirTag’s greatest functionality: it uses the worldwide network of iOS devices to track the location of an AirTag, but only IOS devices. This led to a real problem that Wired recently fixed – Stalkers can use them to track precise movements better than ever.
AirTags aren’t the first or only device of its kind to use a large network of clients to track location, and many of the best Bluetooth trackers use some form of it. Tile does, for example, but the accuracy and scale are very different with AirTag. While Tile products use Bluetooth to ‘talk’ to the Tile app on your phone, AirTags broadcast the location using Apple’s UWB to all iPhone. Think about how often you come into close contact with someone who uses the Tile app. Now think about how often you approach someone who uses an iPhone or iPad. Yes.
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Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at EFF, puts it quite bluntly in the Wired article:
Apple’s failure to take the safety of people who live outside the Apple ecosystem seriously is inexcusable. It’s not enough for Apple to just protect iOS users. The billions of Android users also deserve to be protected from harassment.
Because of this, a stalker can throw an AirTag in the trunk of your car, in the tiny pocket inside your purse, or in the bottom of your laptop bag in the middle of all the cables and everything. the weird garbage that floats over there. There is an audible alert when an AirTag is too long away from “home”, but it is silent and only goes off every three days. This means that if you live with or near the person stalking you, it is reset every time you come home.
Apple knows this was going to be a problem and notifies iOS users on their phones when an AirTag is traveling with you as long as you have an iPhone 6s or newer. This is a cool feature that can fix the stalker problem, but it doesn’t – it leaves around 80% of all smartphone users. never detect a hidden AirTag because it is the part of people who use Android phone.
Right now, AirTags can make Android users less secure. Apple needs to fix this problem.
To be clear: if you’re using an Android phone and I drop an AirTag in your trunk under the carpet, you’ll never know I’m tracking where you’re going. You’ll never hear it, you have no way of knowing it’s there, and you’ll get in touch with someone using an iPhone who hasn’t bothered to unsubscribe from the entire tracking network. If you live with the stalker, the AirTag will never ring, so it can be dropped into your bag and track where you go outside of your car. It’s an absolute privacy and security nightmare.
Fortunately, it’s an easy nightmare to fix: Apple just needs to make a utility that can notify Android users when an AirTag is moving with them, just like it does for iOS users. Your Android phone may already communicate with an AirTag via NFC, so there is no reason to believe that a small utility that searches for a specific Bluetooth connection request cannot be created for Android.
Apple seems receptive to criticism, telling Gizmodo that it “might adjust the logic and timing of these features, which are adjustable over the air, to continue to improve our deterrents” to people with bad intentions.
That said, an Android fix is ââunlikely to happen unless there is no more public outcry about this unwanted (and, to be honest, unintentional) AirTag feature. Apple isn’t aiming to turn on stalkers, and I’m sure it doesn’t want to be the black eye for being the company that makes Android users unsafe. But right now, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Apple doesn’t want it, but only Apple can fix it.
Harassment and abuse from those close to you is a real thing. And that’s a horrible thing. Apple needs to do something to make it harder, not easier.
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