- Tracking devices made by Apple and other companies are being used to stalk users.
- A new gadget claims to be able to detect Bluetooth trackers quickly.
- Android users can download software to find out if they are being tracked.
AirTag stalking is a growing problem, but high-tech gadgets might help.
A company that makes wireless scanning devices for law enforcement has announced a consumer version called Bluesleuth-Lite that can find AirTags and other tracking devices. Apple’s gadgets have anti-stalking features, but it can take hours to kick in, and Bluesleuth-Lite can reportedly find tags almost instantly.
“While Apple’s AirTags have proven to be an asset when searching for lost items, crooks have also used them to track ex-wives, boyfriends, police cruisers and more,” Chris Hauk, a consumer protection expert at Pixel Privacy, told Lifewire. in an email interview. “At least one of these tracking cases resulted in a murder.”
Stop AirTag Stalking
The maker of Bluesleuth-Lite is seeking crowdfunding on Kickstarter and has raised more than $38,000. The company claims the pocket-sized device can quickly find any Bluetooth tracker.
AirTag stalking uses Bluetooth sensors on a large network of devices to ping and track location, making it possible to track people without their consent in near real time, Kevin Roundy, senior technical director at cybersecurity firm Norton Labs, said in an email mail to Lifewire.
“The small size of the device means it can be inserted into small spaces – think car wheel wells, slipped into jacket pockets or tucked into bags – without the target noticing,” he added.
Tracking devices are often used to track people’s locations without consent, Paul Bischoff, a privacy attorney at Comparitech, said by email. He noted that AirTag stalking can theoretically happen to anyone, but it is especially prevalent in the home. “For example, a husband can put an AirTag in his wife’s purse without her knowledge,” he said.
Several cases of AirTag stalking have made the news. In New York City, a Sports Illustrated model was pursued with an AirTag. Brooks Nader said she was tracked for five hours when someone put an Apple AirTag in her coat pocket.
“It was the scariest, scariest moment ever,” Nader said in an Instagram post. “And I just want everyone to be aware of that…”
A 43-year-old Ohio woman was allegedly shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, who tracked her via an AirTag. In response, the Ohio State Legislature has considered a bill to ban electronic stalking.
If someone is stalking you, please contact local law enforcement and organizations and resources such as the NNEDV Technology Safety and Privacy Toolkit and the US National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233).
Find electronic stalking devices
There are several ways to prevent AirTag stalking, although none are foolproof. Android users can use a third-party app to detect AirTags, such as Tracker Detect or AirGuard. AirTags will also beep if they are separated from their owners for too long.
Apple recently reduced the time it takes to alert users about unknown AirTags from 24 hours to just 15 minutes, Bischoff noted. You must have iOS 14.5 or later. However, this protection does not apply to non-iOS devices, and most Android users do not bother to download a third-party detection app.
“I think Android should have a built-in detection feature like iOS that alerts users if they are being followed by a tracking device,” he added.
Another problem is that it is possible to buy an AirTag with the speaker disabled. This means you won’t be alerted if the device is being used to stalk you.
If you think you might be at risk of being stalked, Roundy said you should keep a close eye on your phone for pop-ups and alerts. “If someone is stalking you, please contact local law enforcement and organizations and resources such as the NNEDV Technology Safety and Privacy Toolkit and the US National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233),” he added.
But some observers say more needs to be done to prevent AirTag stalking. Cathy Habas, a writer at SafeWise, said users should be able to receive “AirTag near you” alerts automatically.
“Unless they suspect they are being stalked, very few people think to use the ‘Items Detected Near You’ feature,” Habas added. ” The downside, of course, is that you could end up getting quite a few notifications. Perhaps the notifications could only appear if an unknown AirTag appears to be moving with you – like if it’s slipped into your purse, behind your license plate, or even being carried by the stalker.”
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