A German researcher used the power of Apple AirTags to uncover government information. By sending one of the tags to an undisclosed federal group, activist Lillith Wittman is trying to prove the agency’s actual goals and objectives. Germany’s secretive Federal Telecommunications Service may be a front for an alternative operation, a theory Wittman is relentlessly pursuing.
The German activist said that she’s using the internet, alongside the Apple AirTags, to get to the bottom of one German agency’s endgame. Wittman used the Federal Telecommunications Service’s website to scope out the company’s address and other businesses located in the building. As she documented the information on Reddit, some commenters who claimed to work in the building revealed that the Federal Intelligence Service was also located there. The untraceable CEOs of various companies in the building, plus the claims from Reddit, pushed Wittman into proving her hypothesis.
Though everyone Wittman communicated with at the Federal Telecommunications Service denied being part of an intelligence agency, Wittmann wanted to administer a test herself. She sent mail to determine if these employees could be located at the same address as the supposed intelligence group headquarters. She attached a package with an Apple AirTag, then tracked the tag with Apple’s Find My system.
The Apple AirTag attached to the package first ended up in a sorting office in Cologne. Then, the package was distributed to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in another part of Cologne. This was peculiar to Wittman, who addressed the package to the telecommunications agency but wound up in a different German city’s intelligence office.
The discovery that Germany’s secretive telecommunications service might be a facade led to incessant press and coverage. The German government came out with various statements denying Wittman’s claims and refuting that the Federal Telecommunications Service existed at all. The denial still doesn’t explain how the Apple AirTag physically ended up at an intelligence agency’s location. Whittman stated that she’d continue to investigate, despite the government’s repudiation.
Though Apple AirTags are unbelievable tracking devices, their capabilities have developed concerns for people globally. Like Whittman, their small size and accuracy mean dangerous individuals could misuse the technology. The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project directly called on Apple to remove the product from shelves, saying that the company profited from surveilling citizens while disclosing people’s private locations.
With all of the consumer backlash, Apple released a new safety guideline for the Apple AirTag. The tags now include a step-by-step guide detailing what an individual should do when encountering an unknown tag. The guide also explains what you should do when your iPhone notifies you of an unwanted AirTag in your vicinity. Though this increases awareness of how predators have misused tags, it does little to eliminate nefarious acts of unwarranted surveillance.
Apple AirTags’ ability to find your lost keys, wallet, or phone is a tremendous advancement in modern technology. But with great power comes great responsibility for technology’s most innovative company. Today, Apple AirTags can still be purchased with no fundamental changes to its programming.