First to Apple Unveiling the iPod, Steve Jobs promises to put a thousand songs in your pocket. Twenty years later, when Apple unveiled its latest device, the AirTags, it promised to put a global tracking network in your pocket, wallet, or any place you could hide a little. device. AirTags are Bluetooth-made homing beacons about the size of a quarter. They are marketed as a great way to track lost luggage or keys, but they can be the latest way for abusers to seize survivors of a partner’s intimate violence.
Yes, stalkerware is already on phones, and compromised accounts can provide your location. But there are also known protections against these threats, whether it’s two-factor authentication, antivirus software for phones, or even Apple’s own guiding to secure your accounts and settings if your safety is at risk.
The threat from AirTags is different. AirTags can be easily hidden in a targeted bag or car, giving an abuser a quick way to track their location. This is similar to the threat posed by other trackers like that Tile, but on a much larger scale. The tiles are the same weight and size as the AirTags, with one important difference: the size of the network. If a Tile is lost or stolen, it tries to communicate with nearby Tile users, who piggyback on their cell or Wi-Fi connection to communicate with the owner. You can go all day without coming within Bluetooth (approximately 30 feet) of a Tile user, but try to end the day without reaching within 30 feet of an iPhone or iPad . The tile measures its users in the tens of thousands. Apple has more than a billion.
Apple conscripts almost all iOS devices into its global tracking network by default. If you want to opt out, you’ll have to navigate a labyrinth of menu options that will prove completely inaccessible to everyone but the most technologically savvy. Apple offers the illusion of choice, permission, but no more.
For people who use an iPhone, Apple is providing new software alerts to let them know about potential stalking. While the look is a bit unattainable, users can get peace of mind by going to the settings menu and searching for unfamiliar AirTags if they suspect they’ve been spotted. But if the survivor doesn’t have a phone or has an Android device, they’re out of luck. After being isolated from its owner by 72-hour AirTag alerts people with a 60-decibel tone, about the same amount as a washing machine or infrequently. The quick muffled or unavoidable beep will only go out if the AirTag is not in the range of the phone it has been paired with for three consecutive days, meaning that abusers living with broken (which is common) are always the clock can be reset.
Even if the abusers don’t live with the survivors, that’s still three free days of stalking, followed by a sound warning that can be easily ignored and which is useless for the hard of hearing. . Apple’s failure to take seriously the safety of people outside the Apple ecosystem cannot be apologized for. It’s not enough for Apple to just protect iOS users. Billions of Android users deserve to be protected from stalking as well. The single most important step Apple needs to take is to create an Android app that notifies users of nearby trackers. You don’t have to own an Apple device to know if you’re safe from Apple products. In addition, we with Apple devices do not need to be added to the tracking network without permission. Apple just needs to add the following users. There is a long and painful history of seeing stalker and abusive associates seemingly harmless technologies. Location tracking services established by many family cell phone plans are used by abusers frequently that Congress perpetuation of a law to reduce the threat.
Apple needs to take domestic abuse and stalking seriously. More than 10 million Americans are likely to face stalking their lives, with more than a million facing this threat each year. Rates for intimate partner violence are even more severe, with more than a quarter of women and 10 percent of men report abuse. They are not outliers, they are an epidemic of violence that has touched almost every corner of our world. If Apple fails to protect survivors, the consequences could be fatal. Apple’s leadership needs to give abuse survivors and experts a central place in its development process, including their feedback from the start. Otherwise, the company will continue to make products that endanger people more than they help.
WIRED Opinion publishes articles by external contributors representing multiple perspectives. Read more opinions HERE, and see our submission instructions HERE. Submit us aka op-ed to [email protected].
More WIRED Stories