Article

Publications_digital digest_Bluetooth trackers the pros and cons

The Bluetooth Tracker Dilemma: Convenience Vs Privacy Concerns

Engineered to be your personal lost-and-found service, Bluetooth trackers attach to your valuable belongings like keys, phone, or laptop, to effortlessly locate them with a simple tap on your smartphone. These devices are designed for efficiency, using minimal battery life to last months without replacement. Some even boast unique features, such as being shaped like a credit card to fit seamlessly into your wallet.  

While Bluetooth trackers appear to be the ideal solution to our tendency to forget, it’s important to take a closer look and fully grasp what using them entails for your privacy. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of these gadgets, examining the convenience they offer against potential concerns. Are Bluetooth trackers the groundbreaking solution they promise to be, or is there more risk than reward beneath the surface?

Understanding bluetooth tracker tech

Bluetooth trackers operate on the simple yet potent principle of harnessing Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, also called Bluetooth 4.0, to establish a connection and exchange data with your device. This connection enables you to effortlessly monitor the location of the item it’s affixed to, either through the integrated map on the tracker’s mobile application or via a web browser. Additionally, you can use your phone to trigger your tracker to emit a ring if locating it through the map proves challenging. 

While Bluetooth trackers excel in indoor environments and nearby areas, some models extend their reach to locating objects up to 80 meters away. Beyond that, the app will display the Bluetooth tracker’s last known location. These compact and lightweight trackers make them easy to attach to various items without adding significant bulk or weight. They also often come with long-lasting batteries, ensuring prolonged usage without frequent recharging.

Popular players in the Bluetooth tracker market include Tile, Apple AirTag, Samsung Galaxy’s SmartTag, Chipolo, and Cube Tracker. 

Privacy and security considerations 

Bluetooth trackers offer convenience and peace of mind for monitoring personal belongings, but it’s essential to consider their safety implications.

Privacy Concerns: Bluetooth trackers are primarily designed to help locate lost items, but their use has raised serious privacy concerns. There have been cases where people have misused these devices for unauthorized tracking of other individuals. This involves secretly attaching Bluetooth trackers to the personal belongings of unsuspecting people, such as bags or vehicles. Anyone using the associated tracking app could monitor the victim’s movements without their knowledge or consent.

Security risk: Bluetooth trackers usually depend on mobile apps or web interfaces for tracking and managing devices. Users must prioritize security when selecting a platform, ensuring it employs strong encryption and authentication methods to protect sensitive information like location data. However, despite efforts, there’s no foolproof guarantee. For instance, Apple’s AirTag has reportedly experienced hacking incidents like jailbreaking. German security researcher Thomas Roth demonstrated the ability to modify the tracker’s software, highlighting potential vulnerabilities. 

Battery hazards: Most Bluetooth tracking devices, including popular options like Apple AirTags, are powered by button batteries. While these small batteries are efficient, they present substantial risks if ingested or if their contents leak, making them particularly hazardous for children and pets. Recognizing these dangers, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) flagged concerns about how easy it is for children to access these batteries in AirTags, stressing the potential dangers. It’s essential for users to store these devices securely and to promptly dispose of any damaged or depleted batteries to prevent accidents. 

Take the next step to secure your Bluetooth trackers 

With increasing concerns about the security and privacy of Bluetooth trackers, it is important to take measures to protect yourself at work and home.

When purchasing Bluetooth trackers, opt for well-known and reputable brands. Research and read reviews to ensure you choose a reliable and trustworthy product. Follow the manufacturers firmware updates to address security vulnerabilities or improve performance. Regularly check for updates and install them to ensure you have the latest security patches. 

Bluetooth tracker apps often request various permissions on your smartphone, such as access to your location or contacts. Review these permissions regularly and grant only the necessary ones. Be cautious about granting excessive permissions that could compromise your privacy. 

Bluetooth trackers constantly emit signals to be discovered by nearby devices. If you’re in a secure environment or don’t need the tracking feature, consider disabling the broadcasting function to minimize the risk of unauthorized tracking. Be vigilant for notifications that can help protect you. Apple devices provide security notifications, such as “Unknown device detected near you,” alerting if a tracking device is nearby. By opting for this notification, you can track the device’s location. Remember that you may need to enable this feature manually in your device’s settings. 

Distilled 

By now, you must have understood the range of capabilities these mini gadgets possess, which can both benefit and potentially harm your privacy. However, following the guidelines can minimize the safety risks associated with Bluetooth trackers and enhance your privacy and security. 

Nidhi Singh

No posts found.
No posts found.