Apple's AirTags have come under all sorts of scrutiny since the company revealed them last spring, with many worried that the tracking devices had the potential to be put to nefarious use. The company included a few safety measures to mitigate this – but some controversial new AirTag mods have done away with perhaps the most important.
When separated from its owner's iPhone for an extended period, the AirTag should emit a loud beep. But custom "silenced" versions currently for sale via the likes of Etsy and eBay have had the sound removed. (Looking for the real deal? Check out the best AirTag deals.)
Twitter user Publidave (opens in new tab) spotted one listing after receiving a promoted ad from Etsy itself, showing a "Silent AirTag" with the speaker disabled. And rather than simply a sticker covering the speaker, it seems this is in fact modified hardware.
Oh look. There is already a secondary market for modified AirTags with the speaker disabled for “stealth mode.” I hate everything so much right now. https://t.co/Y56CusJ4qPFebruary 2, 2022
With the potential to be used for stalking, these 'silent' AirTags have naturally caused serious alarm – and the above listing has already been removed from Etsy. But the seller claims that there was no sinister intention behind the product, and that it was simply intended for those who want to track items they might not always be near.
"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," Etsy merchant JTEE3D told PCMag (opens in new tab).
But the issue does highlight the question of whether AirTags are designed to track stolen items as well as lost ones. "Any item that works for the purpose of catching a thief in this manner is also a perfect tool for stalking,” tweeted Eva Galperin, co-founder of The Coalition Against Stalkerware (opens in new tab). “That is why Apple advertises them as tools for tracking lost items and not stolen ones.”
Apple has already had to release a few software updates for AirTags in response to various outcries over privacy, but it's alarming that the hardware itself can be so easily hacked – perhaps the next update ought to take the form an actual design refresh. In the meantime, don't forget that the iPhone itself already has 'Find My' capabilities built right in – check out today's best iPhone 13 deals below and be sure to visit our roundup of the best Apple deals.
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