With all the media coverage of criminals abusing Apple’s AirTags, New York Times privacy reporter Kashmir Hill decided to immerse herself in that world by tracking her husband’s location—with his permission—using three devices: AirTags, several Tile trackers, and a LandAirSea GPS tracker. Here’s what she learned:
- The AirTag was the most effective overall, though it worked best in the dense urban environment of New York City and less so in a sparsely populated area. The Tile wasn’t nearly as effective, never realizing that it left the garage during the more rural test. The AirTag outperformed the LandAirSea GPS tracker when her husband was underground in the New York subway.
- Her husband did receive alerts that an unknown AirTag was with him, but in one case, his iPhone couldn’t connect to it to play a sound, and in another, he could make it play a sound but still wasn’t able to locate it.
- As much as her husband had trouble finding the unknown AirTags, the Tile and LandAirSea trackers didn’t give themselves away at all. Apple’s not perfect, but other companies are barely trying.
The problem with the AirTag may be that it works too well, thanks to the extensive Find My Network, which uses every nearby Apple device to relay an AirTag’s location. Couple that with Apple’s high profile and marketing muscle, and it’s easy to see how the AirTag would interest stalkers. Hopefully, Apple’s upcoming changes (see “Apple Explains How It Will Address AirTag Privacy Issues,” 12 February 2022) will both reduce the privacy worries and raise the bar for similar products.