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Apple AirTag tracking devices with deactivated speakers have been spotted on eBay and Etsy, raising privacy concerns about the risks of removing one of the AirTag's safeguards, PCMag reports.

silent-airtags-with-speakers-removed.jpg

The modified AirTags, dubbed "Silent AirTags," have had their internal speaker removed so that they are no longer able to emit a sound to highlight their presence. The Silent AirTag looks identical to a normal AirTag, other than a small hole cut below the device's battery to disconnect the speaker.

The Etsy merchant behind one of the product listings, which offered the Silent AirTag for $77.50, recently took the item off sale and told PCMag:
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.

AirTags are a prohibited item on Etsy, and the listing would have been removed had the seller not already removed it themselves. An eBay seller behind a similar listing said that the purpose of the Silent AirTag was to ensure that "it doesn't keep beeping when away from you," such as "if left in car or bike or with a family member." The Silent AirTag purportedly also "reduces the chance of a thief being notified of its hidden location." At the current time, ‌an AirTags begins emitting a sound between eight and 24 hours after being separated from their owner to flag its location.

While the motives behind the Silent AirTag appear to be innocent, their sale has alarmed some privacy advocates online. Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, tweeted 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.

AirTags have been increasingly linked to criminal activity in recent months, including vehicle thefts and stalking cases. While AirTags automatically alert iPhone users, as well as Android users with the Tracker Detect app installed, when an unknown tracker is traveling with them via a notification, the speaker is the AirTag's only anti-stalking mitigation that works automatically and does not depend on the tracked person having a phone.

In addition to releasing the Tracker Detect app for Android, Apple has also shared a Personal Safety User Guide, added the ability to scan for nearby trackers, and updated the AirTag's firmware with shorter intervals between emitted sounds. Despite these measures, the AirTag's anti-stalking safeguards have been criticized for being insufficient.

Article Link: Sale of 'Silent AirTags' on eBay and Etsy Raises Privacy Concerns
 
Last edited:

zilchfox

macrumors regular
Jun 30, 2015
101
246
Atlanta, GA
I have a silent AirTag.

...Except it's because the speaker broke rather than malicious intent, I'm guessing the jostling of my keys made that happen. I gotta get it fixed/replaced.
 
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pilotpat

macrumors 6502
May 6, 2015
460
617
Nebraska, USA
Not surprised at all the best solution is to not leave your home. This is just an open door to invade your privacy. Hopefully, Apple steps it up and shuts it down.
Apple should have some form of recourse to shut this down. They are using Apple's trade names and logos. And they are reselling a modified device without permission from Apple to do so. Get on it lawyers, stop messing with the Apple Man movie guy and shut these fools down!
 

gaximus

macrumors 68000
Oct 11, 2011
1,802
3,211
I'm curious how many things were stolen because of Tile. Tiles don't have speakers, or notifications that you are being stalked. My guess is that bad people have been tracking people with Tile and other trackers since the beginning, and nobody knew about it. Apple's solution to tracking (with privacy in mind) shed a light on what was happening.
 

idkxander

macrumors newbie
Jan 21, 2022
1
2
What made you think that? Also, if they didn’t make these, someone else would have.
I mean Apple is unique because their existing Find My network is far more expansive than something like Tile. Apples millions of devices in the wild allowed this to work from launch and become an immediate concern. Any other dev needs people to download an app to be on the network.
 

glitch44

macrumors 65816
Feb 28, 2006
1,100
120
I'm curious how many things were stolen because of Tile. Tiles don't have speakers, or notifications that you are being stalked. My guess is that bad people have been tracking people with Tile and other trackers since the beginning, and nobody knew about it. Apple's solution to tracking (with privacy in mind) shed a light on what was happening.

Tiles do have speakers, at least the one I put in my dog's collar did. It doesn't have the worldwide network of iOS devices to draw upon, though.
 

Infiniti_Z

macrumors newbie
May 2, 2017
15
25
Sweden
This privacy talk is getting ridiculous honestly. No one reported on these 'privacy issues' before the Airtags existed. How big of a issue I this anyway? Shouldn't stores start selling dull knives too then because otherwise someone might kill their spouse with it? Limit cars so they can only go 10 mph because otherwise someone might die in a car crash.

People will find ways to kill/stalk/hurt eachother anyway. Stop hampering the Airtags already.
 

macduke

macrumors G5
Jun 27, 2007
12,065
17,094
Central U.S.
I put AirTags on my kid's shoes in cute little cases that look like an accent/charm on the shoe and not an AirTag. With so much child trafficking, including large busts in recent years in my city, having them on my young kids makes a lot of sense to me. Didn't realize they would start automatically beeping after only 8 hours? I guess they're not at school long enough. I might do this modification. With COVID they haven't been separated from us very long, although they did stay with their uncle and they didn't say anything about their shoes beeping so idk how this works. If this becomes an issue I might modify their shoes. But I could also see Apple updating AirTags to have a tiny microphone that has to hear the beeps or else it shuts down the transmitter.
 

turbineseaplane

macrumors G4
Mar 19, 2008
11,424
20,605
Only reason this makes headlines is because it’s Apple. Way cheaper options for tracking people that can’t be detected. I understand there are people at risk, but AirTags are not the problem here.

Incorrect
The Apple angle and how they've done AirTags is the issue.

The entire network of iOS devices out in the wild (millions upon millions) are used as the "detection network"

That's something no other type of tracking, save for bulky/battery consuming GPS, can provide
 

turbineseaplane

macrumors G4
Mar 19, 2008
11,424
20,605
I tried removing a speaker from one of my AirTags to see how hard it was...

Turned out it was easy. Took me literally five minutes and didn't even break anything on the tag. It was pry-open, peal-off speaker, click back shut. I followed this video:


All the more reason Apple should abandon these (or seriously change how they work).

They have created a dragnet (all the iOS devices in the world), sort of without thinking about the consequences of that and the nefarious uses that become easy.
 
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