AirTags in trouble with Aussie regulators

AirTags, Apple’s nifty new location tracking devices, are again in the headlines. This time, though, for the wrong reasons.

The AirTag was the first Apple product in many years to offer a removable battery; and that battery is the problem according to Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission. 

The ACCC has released a statement that says it is concerned that the AirTag’s battery compartment could be accessible to young children, and the button battery removed with ease. 

It also points out that the AirTag battery compartment’s lid does not always secure fully on closing, and that a distinctive sound plays when an AirTag’s lid is being closed, suggesting the lid is secure when it may not be.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said that it is liaising with their international counterparts on the safety of Apple AirTags, and “at least one overseas public safety regulator is also examining the safety of this product at this stage.”

Although AirTags haven’t caused any injuries, three children have died and 44 have been severely injured in Australia from incidents involving button batteries in other products, and more than one child a month is seriously injured as a result of ingesting or inserting the batteries which are contained in millions of consumer goods worldwide.

If swallowed, a button battery can get stuck in a child’s throat and cause a chemical reaction that burns through tissue, causing death or serious injury within a short amount of time.

Apple responded by saying that “AirTag is designed to meet international child safety standards, including those in Australia” and that the company was “working to ensure that our products will meet or exceed new standards.”

The device met with controversy soon after its release when it was discovered that there was the potential the device could be used to stalk people. 

That led Apple to issue a software update that causes an AirTag to beep at a random time, between eight and 24 hours, if it’s away from its owner’s iPhone. 

An Android update is promised later in the year but at present if someone plans to use an AirTag to stalk someone else and the victim doesn’t have an iPhone, it may take up to three days (the period at which the device sends out an alarm notifying that an AirTag is moving with them) before they’re alerted that they’re being followed. 

Groups who work with victims of domestic abuse say that these protections are inadequate especially in the case of someone who lives with an abusive partner.

Additionally XDA Developers noted issues with the elevation aspect of the product – which meant that if you were on another floor in a building you would have problems locating your AirTag, if it was attached, say, to your luggage, on another level. 

Key takeaways

Airtag batteries are a health risk to young children, says Australia’s Consumer Commission.

If swallowed, a button battery can get stuck in a child’s throat.

At least one other overseas public safety regulator is also examining the safety of the product.

Apple says AirTag is designed to meet international child safety standards, including those in Australia

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