Apple Airtags and similar Bluetooth tracking devices have been lifesavers in helping users find their electronics, keys, wallets, pets, and other valuable items. However, as new technology comes out, hackers and predators rise to the occasion and find new ways to use and abuse the technology. We’ve previously discussed the benefits of a few types of Bluetooth devices. As with any technology, there are always pros and cons to each type; however, safety is always a concern whether it’s for you or your children.
Apple Airtags come in as one of the top Bluetooth tracking devices with a pricing of around $30 per device. One of the benefits we discussed is the overall size of the Apple Airtags as they come in a quarter size and can be attached to hard-to-find items. The most convenient feature is the Precision Finding Feature which allows Apple users who have an iPhone 11 or newer to have the location and distance to the object they need to find. If you’re using these trackers for finding your belongings, these are great features. However, the two positive features can drastically become negative if someone is using these for malicious activity.
The Problem With Bluetooth Trackers
The first problem is the size of these Bluetooth trackers. Since they are the size of a quarter, predators can easily attach them to a person’s purse, backpack, car, bike, etc. without the person noticing. The combination of the size and Precision Finding Feature means that predators can discreetly place and track the Apple Airtags completely unnoticed. In February this year, in Dayton, Ohio at Wittenberg University, an 18-year-old freshman received a notification on her iPhone that an unknown accessory had been detected and that the accessory had been with her for some time, revealing her location to the registered owner. The device had tracked this woman from the airport where she picked up a friend, to the university campus 50 miles away. However, when the police inspected the exterior of her car, they couldn’t find the Bluetooth device anywhere.
Apple does provide information on their website on what to do if you receive a notification about an Apple Airtag, including the steps to disable it. However, the website lists multiple steps per item, which seems rather difficult given a moment of vulnerability. Most other sites say you can remove the battery on the Apple Airtag once you find it. Various states including Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Connecticut, and Texas have reported the abuse of AirTags with reports of domestic stalking and car stealing attempts. If you receive a notification about an unknown device, law enforcement recommends that you find the nearest police station, fire station, or another safe space that isn’t your home or place of work. If someone is stalking you, you don’t want them to know your frequent locations. Apple does offer help with the Find My Feature and the Item Safety Feature which allows users to search for unknown Airtags. Although Apple Airtags cannot sync with Android phones, you can use your Android phone to find an unknown Airtag and to see if you’re potentially tracked.
Android users have options like the Tile Mate Bluetooth Tracker, the Cube Smart Bluetooth Tracker, and Samsung’s SmartTag. As we discussed before, the Tile Mate has pretty snazzy features, including being water-resistant and having a tracking distance of 250 feet. For $25, this makes it cheaper than an Apple Airtag and great for finding belongings and even kids. As for keeping your children safe, it’s great for their backpacks and personal belongings. Even if they spill their lunch or drinks, the Tile Mate is water-resistant, so you can still know where your kids are despite everyday messes. Tile Mate works with iOS and Android devices, so its versatility is one of its best benefits. It also works with smart systems like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. Tile Mate offers a convenient QR code that when scanned, provides the user contact information when lost.
With all the negative stories of stalking and car theft, Tile Mate created a new feature called Scan and Secure. This allows Tile Mate users to download the Tile app and scan for other Tile devices that may be with them. The Tile website does list the steps necessary to make the app work, however, the Scan and Secure app takes 10 minutes and recommends the user to move away from the location in question. Please visit their website for more information.
The Cube Smart Bluetooth Tracker
The Cube Smart Bluetooth Tracker is like Tile Mate and works with Apple and Android devices. The Cube has waterproof abilities and comes with a rechargeable battery. As with many Bluetooth devices, the Cube can locate any of your personal belongings with ease. It can even locate anything with GPS precision as it comes with a GPS app. With all this being a huge help to us, it also has its downfalls. With GPS precision, comes a predator’s ability to abuse trusted devices to locate you, your children, and/or your loved ones.
Samsung’s Smart Tag is a Bluetooth tracking device used exclusively for Samsung users. This is a big downfall. However, it gains attention with its easy setup. Even the most novice of device users can set this device up with the SmartThings app and start using it. It offers a long-term battery life and one-button interactivity. There’s much less information on this device, yet there are reported cases of malicious activity.
Bluetooth tracking devices offer many benefits, but as with all forms of technology, there are safety concerns. You can install the Tracker Detect app which can locate Apple Airtags and other similar compatible devices to help ensure you, your children, and your loved ones’ safety. If you feel like you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or Bluetooth tracking abuse, please reach out to your local law enforcement.