Losing your keys is one of the most frustrating inconveniences. Losing track of your belongings can really mess up your day. It’s a common problem and one that some struggle with more often than others. Technology companies have tried to innovate a solution for this. Companies such as Apple and Tile have been producing trackers that consumers can keep with their keys or other belongings. These trackers can be a great help in locating a misplaced bag or figuring out where you set your keys, but this technology has also uncovered and contributed to a serious problem – illegal tracking.
As of April 30th of 2021, Apple has been selling AirTags, a round device that connects to the company’s “Find My” network. The device indicates its current or last known location on Apple’s Find My app and can play a sound to help locate the tag once the owner is within range to use Bluetooth.
Similarly, the company Tile produces a small square device that can be attached to commonly misplaced objects to track them. The company has sold over 40 million tracking devices.
Many people have bought tracking devices to keep track of their belongings, however, others have bought these devices with misplaced or malicious intent. While tracking devices such as AirTags or Tiles are intended for finding your property, there have been reports of people using tracking devices to stalk or monitor other people or try to steal their belongings. Misuse of these tracking devices has ranged from parents secretly tracking their children to thieves using them to follow and steal cars.
These tracking devices are widely available and are a relatively affordable way to find your things, but they can also be used as a potent tool for criminals. AirTags are not intended to be used as a staking aide or to be used in other criminal activities, however, they are being used in those ways regardless. Apple has taken some action against this. The company has designed its product to inform users that tracking someone without their consent is illegal in many areas. In addition to its legal disclaimer, Apple has updated its devices to alert people. Apple phones will alert owners to the presence of unknown AirTags. They will indicate if the AirTag has been traveling with them, and that the device’s owner can see the location of the AirTag. They also have a feature that enables people with unknown AirTags in their surroundings to locate the tags using an app. Apple has also stated that information about the owner of an AirTag is available with a subpoena, making tracking down misusers easier. These features make it easier for people to find out if they have an unwanted tracking device on them or their belongings, find the device, and find out who put it on them.
These safety measures are an important step in the right direction for the industry, but they have some flaws. While Apple’s devices will alert you to the presence of AirTags other phones won’t. This leaves a large demographic of people at risk. Hopefully moving forward companies will continue to develop safety features on their tracking devices. When technologies are created it’s important for the creator to consider their further implications and to make any needed changes to keep their technology from causing more harm than good.