In the endless web of the Apple catalog, there seems to be a device for any of your wants and needs. There is the Apple Watch to make certain you reach your daily 10,000 steps and, obviously, track time. There are even Apple light bulbs. And most recently, Apple AirTags have been added to the list of items available for purchase, and they’re surprisingly already brewing up controversy.
So What Even Are Apple AirTags?
In April 2021, Apple finally released the AirTag after many years of talk about the possibility of making the tracking device. The AirTag is a small circular “tag” device intended to attach to everyday items that are commonly misplaced, like wallets, keys and more, making them easily traceable as long as they are connected to a Bluetooth network.
So What’s the Issue?
In early December, Canadian police released a mass warning that the tracking devices were suspected to have been used in a ring of high-end vehicle thefts, with five cases confirmed.
Aside from car theft schemes, AirTags have been traced to an even darker, more harrowing type of illegal activity — human trafficking.
There have been multiple reports of young women finding AirTags sneakily placed on their cars without their knowledge. Many of these young women have said that when they reported these findings to local police departments, they were told by officers that they couldn’t do much for them and to call back “once they were attacked.”
Nader claims she discovered her steps were being tracked when her iPhone notified her of an “unknown accessory” traveling with her. The Sports Illustrated model shared a screenshot of the push alert notification, which led her to realize that an AirTag had been hidden in her coat pocket for approximately five hours.
To accompany the screenshot, Nader wrote, “I never share stuff like this, but what the f^% does this mean ? This ‘device’ followed me for the last 5 hours to every location and there was no one in my ‘network’. It also wasn’t a phone or tablet, it was an item.”
In another Instagram story, the model tagged Apple’s Instagram account and posed a question to the company: “Did you take into consideration the danger and potentially fatal consequences this device has?”
Apple responded to safety concerns about the device following the outcry, saying that the device is “designed to discourage unwanted tracking.”
The tech giant added, “If someone else’s AirTag finds its way into your stuff, your iPhone will notice it’s traveling with you and send you an alert.”
An Apple representative also spoke to the New York Post about the matter, promising: “We take customer safety very seriously and are committed to AirTags’ 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 as part of the Find My network accessory program.”
Why Are They so Popular and yet so Dangerous?
The Apple AirTag isn’t the first of its kind. Companies like Tile have released similar Bluetooth and GPS tracking devices. So why are AirTags ginning up so much controversy if they aren’t the first device of this nature? Ultimately, it seems that the strength of the Apple brand combined with the tracker’s budget-friendly price point of only $29.99 has led to the device taking over the wireless tracking industry one step at a time.
Despite Apple’s claims that push notices regarding any unknown devices traveling with you will act as a sort of saving grace for those being tracked without their knowledge, fears are still present.
Women of all ages, all over the world, have continued to bring to light scary tales of discovering the tiny trackers tucked on their person. As talk about the dangers circulates, it is apparent that these devices could be used in many other dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations that affect women — like domestic violence.
In this day and age, technology is ever-expanding and evolving before our very eyes — which can lead to harsh consequences for everyday people. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a nonprofit organization that advocates for the abolition of violence against women, has spoken out about the company’s product. An NNEDV spokesperson addressed some worries they have about AirTag mania, saying they too have fears about how easily the product can be hidden on someone’s person without their knowledge. Erica Olsen, safety net project director at NNEDV, said, “When somebody tried 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.”
Olsen added, “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.”
Nonetheless, the chances Apple will pull AirTags from the shelves is slim to none, considering their popularity. However, for the sake of women and other vulnerable people all over the world, security measures that are stronger than just a delayed notification can prevent immense anguish, stress and, in some cases, it may even save a life.