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Accessories

‘Silent AirTags’ with disabled speakers surface on eBay and Etsy, raise privacy concerns

By Sanuj Bhatia February 4, 2022, 7:30 am
silent airtags on eBay and Etsy Source: PCMag

Apple released AirTag last year. At the time, privacy was said to be one of the issues with the device wherein it could be used to track someone without them knowing about it. Apple patched some of the privacy issues around AirTag by releasing an Android app and taking some other steps. However, it seems that they weren't enough.

According to a report from PCMag, sellers on eBay and Etsy are selling AirTags that have their speakers disabled. For those unaware, if an AirTag detects an unfamiliar environment, it makes a sound through the speaker on the device letting the concerned person know that there is an unknown AirTag around them. However, some sellers are selling an AirTag that has its internal speaker removed. Since the speaker is no longer there, the AirTags are not able to emit the sound to highlight their presence.

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Etsy had a listing for silent AirTag. Each Silent AirTag was priced at $77.50. The shopping website has since then removed the listing from its website, but in a statement to the publication, the seller said:

"The intent of this modification was to cater to the several requests of buyers interested in my other AirTag product who were interested in fitting an AirTag to their bikes, pets and power tools. These requests led me to listing it as a product on Etsy, albeit without a great deal of traction. The vast majority of sales shown on my Etsy profile are from sales on my modified slim AirTag, designed to unobtrusively fit inside a purse or wallet."

"While I believe there to be many positive uses for this product, there are some negatives, that I’m now aware of, that can’t be outweighed by any positive. In light of this, I have removed my listing from Etsy. I’m not affiliated with any other listings of silent AirTags."

Apple needs to step in

airtag attach

It seems that the merchant was able to make the AirTags 'silent' by drilling a small hole beneath the device’s battery which disconnected its speaker and thus it was no longer able to make any sound. Ever since the launch of the device, there have been numerous cases of AirTags being used to stalk or follow someone. Apple has patched it with a number of software updates before, but this time it seems to be related to the engineering design.

Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote on Twitter about her concern for the "secondary market for modified ‌AirTags‌ with the speaker disabled for 'stealth mode'," and noted:

Any item that works for the purpose of catching a thief in this manner is also a perfect tool for stalking. That is why Apple advertises them as tools for tracking lost items and not stolen ones.

It's important to note that Apple's sole purpose of releasing AirTags was to let people track their important items (wallets, purses, etc). AirTags are not to be used for stalking purposes. The US state Pennsylvania became the first state this month to propose a bill that could prevent AirTag stalking. Some Australian retailers are refusing to sell the device due to these issues.

Source: PCMag | Via: MacRumors

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