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Posts tagged with "AirTags"

Are AirTags Causing Stalking or Making Us More Aware of It?

The problem of AirTags being used to stalk people has been in the news ever since they were released last spring, but a recent story in The New York Times has brought the issue to the forefront again. AirTags are fantastic when used as intended to keep track of your keys, luggage, and other personal items, but stalking is a serious problem that Apple should do everything it can to prevent.

Apple is also in a unique position given the vast size of its Find Me network. That puts the company in a different league than competitors like Tile, which carries greater responsibility with it.

In a story on Peer Reviewed, Matt VanOrmer puts a finger on something I’ve been wondering for a while: Are AirTags contributing to the problem of stalking or merely making us more aware of it because of the unique stalking countermeasures built into the device? It’s a classic causation/correlation question that is worth reflecting on. As VanOrmer explains:

I think the increase in news stories about AirTag stalking situations are less indicative of AirTags causing more stalking, and more indicative of how frequently stalkings already occur — with AirTags’ anti-stalking features simply bringing more of these horrible situations to light. These stories may be a classic example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (AKA the “Frequency Illusion”) — in which increased awareness of creeps using AirTags to stalk women creates the illusion that it is happening more often, or even that AirTags are responsible for this illusory increase in incidence.

As VanOrmer rightly points out, Apple should do everything it can to prevent AirTags from being used to track people, which includes improving the tools available to Android users for whom Apple has made an app that is generally viewed as insufficient. This is also a topic where some added transparency about what Apple is doing to address concerns about stalking would help observers decide whether it’s enough instead of having only anecdotal news reports to go on. However, given the wide-reaching impact of the Find My network, which affects people who aren’t even Apple customers, I think a third-party audit of how Apple is handling the security and privacy implications of AirTags is warranted.

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Apple Tells CNET It’s Making Privacy Changes to AirTags and Has an Android App Coming Later This Year

CNET reports that Apple is adjusting the time within which they sound an alert when separated from their owners and adding ways to alert people when AirTags and third-party Find My network-enabled items are nearby.

Initially, AirTags were set to play a sound three days after they were separated from their owners. Now, the device will play a warning beep somewhere between 8 and 24 hours. Apple is also creating an Android app to allow owners of Android phones and devices to know if an AirTag or Find My network device is planted on them.

AirTags launched last month with numerous privacy protections baked into the device and related software, noting at the time that they expected to make adjustments along the way. With a few weeks of real-world use by customers and investigations by The Washington Post and others, today’s changes are a positive step toward ensuring that AirTags can only be used for their intended purpose: tracking belongings, not people.

The latest changes are being rolled out now and will be applied to AirTags when they are near an iPhone. Apple told CNET that it will have more details on the planned Android app later this year.

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iOS and iPadOS 14.6 Released with Apple Card Family, Podcasts Subscriptions, Updates to AirTags and Find My, and More

Apple has released iOS and iPadOS 14.6 today with a handful of new features, including Apple Card Family and Podcasts Subscriptions, along with Updates to AirTags and the Find My app.

Announced during Apple’s spring event, Apple Card Family is now available in iOS 14.6. Up to five people over the age of 13 can share an Apple Card, allowing them to track expenses and manage spending. All family members on an Apple Card will build credit histories, and parents can set spending limits for their children too.

iOS and iPadOS 14.6 also includes Podcasts Subscriptions, which allows podcasters to offer paid versions of their shows. Shows can be offered as paid-only subscriptions or enhanced versions of free shows that add a combination of bonus features like extended, ad-free, and early-release episodes. The new subscription service is baked directly into the Podcasts app, allowing users to access paid subscriptions alongside free shows.

One of the features of AirTags at launch was the ability to add a phone number to call if a tagged item was lost somewhere. With iOS and iPadOS 14.6, users can add an email address. Also, Apple release notes say that when an AirTag is tapped with an NFC-compatible device, it will show a partially masked phone number.

Apple has also added the ability to unlock an iPhone for the first time after a restart using their voice, which is a Voice Control feature.

Not released with the update today is anything related to Spatial Audio or Lossless streaming of Apple Music content, which is not unexpected since Apple previously said the feature is coming in June.


AirTag Review Roundup

AirTags, which Apple announced on Tuesday, will go on sale tomorrow, April 23rd with deliveries beginning a week later on April 30th. Apple provided the tiny item-tracking device to several YouTubers and reviewers, and embargoes have lifted.

Here’s a rundown of the early reviews of AirTags along with coverage of the new purple iPhone 12:

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch’s editor-in-chief, says AirTags work as advertised, pointing out that:

The precision finding feature enabled by the U1 chip works as a solid example of utility-driven augmented reality, popping up a virtual arrow and other visual identifiers on the screen to make finding a tag quicker.

Panzarino also digs into all the privacy edge cases that Apple has accounted for in his review and shows off some of Apple’s AirTag accessories and what an AirTag looks like disassembled.

Dieter Bohn at The Verge tested AirTags by giving one to a colleague and tracking him down using the Find My network:

After a half-hour of walking around, I finally found him. He was standing on a street corner with no foot traffic whatsoever, which meant that the intermittent signals I got detailing his location came from a couple of iPhones in cars that were driving by.

That’s impressive.

As Bohn and other reviewers note, however, both sides of the AirTags are prone to scratching:

The Verge has a short story and gallery of photos featuring the new purple iPhone 12.

Several video reviews were also released today highlighting the AirTags and the purple iPhone 12, which are embedded after the break.

Read more


‘How Apple Designed AirTags to Be Privacy-First and Stalker-Proof’

Michael Grothaus at Fast Company interviewed Kaiann Drance, Apple’s vice president of worldwide iPhone product marketing and Ron Huang, a senior director of sensing and connectivity, about AirTags. The focus of the story is the privacy features built into AirTags, and it includes this interesting nugget not covered during Apple’s event on Tuesday:

AirTags also have a unique security feature called Pairing Lock, which protects against people who may find your lost item and snatch the AirTag from it to use as their own. Huang likens Pairing Lock to the iPhone’s Activation Lock. “It means that if you lose your AirTag, somebody can’t just pick up your AirTag, re-pair it with their phone, and continue using it,” he says. “This has been really impactful for the iPhone and we think it will be for AirTag as well.”

I’ve seen a lot of questions raised online about exactly how AirTags work and their privacy features, and this Fast Company story is a great place to start to learn more.

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