Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Fines As a Security System

Chris Hulls:

What happened is that the thief who took Lyndsey’s bike got an alert that proactively told her an AirTag was following her location. And, after Apple’s most recent firmware update (December 2022), the thief could even use the precision finding feature to find the exact location — down to the inch — where the tag was hidden.

This feature was designed solely to prevent stalking so that victims of stalkers could identify if an unknown AirTag was following them. So there is no anti-theft feature built into AirTags, and the anti-stalking feature could worsen the already increasing theft issue.

Juli Clover (Hacker News):

AirTag competitor Tile today announced a new Anti-Theft Mode for Tile tracking devices, which is designed to make Tile accessories undetectable by the anti-stalking Scan and Secure feature.


To prevent stalking with Anti-Theft Mode, Tile says that customers must register using multi-factor identification and agree to stringent usage terms, which include a $1 million fine if the device ends up being used to track a person without their consent.

Bruce Schneier:

Interesting theory. But it won’t work against attackers who don’t have any money.


My complaint about the technical solutions is that they only work for users of the system. Tile security requires an “in-app feature.” Apple’s AirTag “notifies iPhone users.” What we need is a common standard that is implemented on all smartphones, so that people who don’t use the trackers can be alerted if they are being surveilled by one of them.

Chris Hulls:

Life360/Tile CEO. I came up with this idea, not our lawyers, as they would be the first to say it is unclear how enforceable this is. But what IS clear, is that based on our new TOS, and because this is opt-in, we definitely could take a flyer in court, and who knows?

Do you want us to unleash millions of dollars of lawyers on you? I don’t think many people will want to find out. I genuinely believe this plus a ID scanning will be a huge deterrent. Stalkers will go buy $30 real time stealth GPS trackers on Amazon instead.


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I (foolishly) bought a set of AirTags to track our cars, and protect our ebike. It was a mistake as AirTags are entirely unsuitable for both purposes. The AirTag locations cannot be shared by family members (like Find My Device can be), so my wife and I (who both use the car) cannot both see where the car is. Worse, since my wife “owns” the device, I get endless alerts about being able to be tracked by the device (which is doubly stupid since I share my location with my wife via my iPhone anyway!).

The same problem applies for the ebike, on top of which it also does not work for tracking the bike if the bike is stolen because of the anti-stalking system.

AirTags may be useful for some purposes, but not for any of mine. They might work ok for a single person, but since any item we track is likely to follow my wife and myself, one or other of us will not be able to see the location and will be alerted endlessly about being tracked, so they are a pain for us tracking, and useless for theft tracking.

I understand the anti-stalking requirements, its just sad that it makes it useless for anti-theft purposes. And I don't understand why you can't share the location amongst a family, or disable alerts from a specific item without turning off the entire alert system.

The ONLY sensible action for Apple is to completely abandon this shit.

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