How Bluetooth Trackers Can Invade Your Privacy

Apple's AirTag, Life360's Tile, and Samsung's SmartTag can be cool accessories but they could also be misused...

Bluetooth tracker

Bluetooth trackers such as the Apple AirTag, Life360’s Tile, and Samsung’s SmartTag are meant to help you keep track of your valuables and keys, but they’ve also made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Specifically, we’ve heard/read stories involving guys stalking ex-girlfriends, strangers following celebrities, and mothers secretly tracking their teenage kids. Also, some criminals used these small devices to track fancy cars to steal them later.

How do Bluetooth trackers work?

As noted above, Bluetooth trackers have a purpose to help users easily find items if they go missing. Once attached to an object or a pet, they instantly make it traceable through a dedicated app.

In order to start using a Bluetooth tracker, all you have to do is attach it to your keys, wallet or puppy – and then connect it through a dedicated app. From that point on, you can always summon the tracker (to play the sound) or see where it is on a map.

Apple’s app is called Find My, Tiles has the Tile app and Samsung – SmartThings Find app. All of them work in a similar way.

Are there security risks of Bluetooth trackers?

The very thing that makes Bluetooth trackers good also makes them dangerous. As noted above, it’s a stalker’s dream gadget. And the same goes for car thieves.

Because they are small, Bluetooth trackers are highly portable and could be attached to just about anything, adding little extra weight to the object (or a person). Specifically, we’re talking about a dozen grams at max. Very few people will be able to spot one of these attached to their cars, and the same goes for unsuspecting ex-girlfriends, who may not notice a small device being added to their purse.

Are there any safeguards against AirTags, Tiles and SmartTags?

We have to praise Apple for adding a notification for iPhone users. If their beloved smartphone catches a foreign AirTag signal nearby, it will alert the user with an “AirTag Found Moving With You” notification. From that point on, the user will have the option to have the AirTag emit a sound, making it easier to uncover. For Android users, the AirTag will automatically make a sound after a certain period of time.

That’s all nice but in real life, this feature can be imprecise and lead users to gain irrelevant notifications if someone with an AirTag happens to be walking or sitting near them.

And so some users turned off these notifications so as not to be disturbed.

Also, using an NFC scanner, users can get information on the AirTag and even disable the AirTag’s tracking capabilities.

As for Tiles and SmartTags, they don’t have the same level of safety features. You can detect nearby Tiles and SmartTags using the Tile app and Samsung’s SmartThings Find app but most people wouldn’t bother to install the two only to be able to search for stalkers in their vicinity.

We should also add that Tile said it will start banning users who use their products to track people, but will that really be a deterrent for those with such intentions?

What can you do to protect yourself from Bluetooth trackers?

Like it or not, Bluetooth trackers are here to stay. If you are worried about being tracked, there are several ways to protect yourself from these gadgets:

  • Don’t leave your possessions unattended and regularly check your bags and purses for trackers.
  • Park in locked garages whenever you can.
  • If you’re an iPhone user, make sure your device is up to date so it can help you find AirTags “Moving With You.” And if an AirTag is detected, don’t assume it’s another person – again, check your possessions and try finding it.
  • Download the Tile and SmartThings Find apps to detect these tags in your vicinity.
  • If you do find a tracker among your possessions, take it to the police station as its serial number could be used to identify the person who slipped it onto you.

At the end, we’ll just add that we hope you won’t be finding any Bluetooth trackers near you. But you never know.