Creeps sell 'silent AirTags' with disabled speakers that are harder to spot

Creeps sell ‘silent AirTags’ with disabled speakers that are harder to spot

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Silent AirTags on eBay
Without a speaker, AirTags are easier to hide.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

Creeps have taken to selling “silent AirTags” with disabled speakers that other creeps can use for more effective stalking. One such device was selling for $77.50 on Etsy before the “star seller” had a change of heart and removed it.

Apple designed AirTag to emit a sound after it has been away from its paired device for a certain period of time, which can help alert those around it of its presence. Without a speaker, AirTag is much more difficult to detect.

‘Stealth mode’ AirTags on sale now

For all the praise AirTag has received for being a stellar item tracker since it made its long-awaited debut last spring, it has also endured plenty of criticism for making it so easy for owners to stalk unsuspecting victims.

Apple has implemented a number of safeguards in an effort to reduce this threat, including notifications that appear on iPhone when an unknown AirTag is detected in your vicinity, and audible alerts from AirTag itself.

But some unscrupulous sellers on eBay and Etsy have found they can eliminate that audible alert by simply disabling AirTag’s speaker. They are then selling the modified, “stealth mode” devices at a considerable markup.

‘Not for stalking’

The sellers, some of which are charging more than $70 per AirTag, obviously claim the devices should not be used for stalking. They instead say they are to reduce the chance of a thief being notified that an AirTag is following them.

One “star seller” on Etsy, JTEE3D, removed their listing for the silent AirTags after receiving backlash online.

“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,” they told PCMag.

“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.”

Does Apple need to step in?

It seems the modified AirTags were made silent by drilling a small hole beneath the device’s battery to disconnect its speaker. This prevents the device itself from making a noise and greatly reduces the chance of it being spotted.

Apple, despite taking steps to prevent stalking with AirTag, and the availability of many other GPS tracking devices that do not offer anti-stalking safeguards, is already under pressure to do more. But it’s not yet clear what it can do.

Pennsylvania this month became the first U.S. state to propose a bill that could see new laws introduced to prevent AirTag stalking. In Australia, some retailers are refusing to sell the device.