Sonntag, 9. Juni 2019

Thoughts on Apple’s Find my (English)

(A friend of mine living in the US asked me about my thoughts on Apple’s upcoming Find my app announced at WWDC 2019 this week — that’s why this article is posted in English)

Links (preliminary reads)

My thoughts

In short: Very, very, very useful.

Once rolled out, this feature will help a lot of devices to be returned to their rightful owner, and probably will also lead to some arrests over times, as well as some very weird discussions with friends and family («Brother-in-law, I know my iPhone is in your house! What the f*** were you thinking?») …

Oh, and think about missing persons, unconscious or incapable of calling for help. You MIGHT find them as long as they’re not totally off the beaten track, even if they don’t have mobile reception. Interesting to see whether good hackers will try to improve their antenna designs to catch Bluetooth signals from miles away (if this is even physically and technically possible?).

Of course, this feature only works as long as your phone is charged, switched on and not damaged (as in hard- and/or software issues). A while ago, a friend lost his phone when „not fully sober“ in front of his condo’s building on a night it was snowing heavily. He found it two days later when the snow melted (after an oven session the thing switched on again and still works, yay!) … this technology would have helped him find it (probably) the morning after, when the phone still had a charge — given that he had access to a second device able to receive the Bluetooth beacon (or another person living in the neighbourhood passing by with his Apple device).

Some questions currently remain open:

  1. How safe is it? In theory it sounds bullet proof. My biggest fear is that hackers nevertheless might find vulnerabilities in the implementation once it is in the wild — looking at you, 36C3 and Def Con. I hope Apple will be able to fix such vulnerabilities with a quick software update …
  2. Does the Bluetooth beacon signal continue to work when Airplane mode is activated? I don’t see airlines tolerate Apple devices sending Bluetooth beacons on an airplane during start and landing. So the Apple devices will have to respect an activated Airplane Mode. If implemented this way, as an unwanted side effect, it will lead malicious persons to switch the device to Airplane Mode (works for iPhones and iPads, but not MacBooks AFAIK) immediately after finding/stealing it, to prevent the device to broadcasting it’s location. On a sidenote: If a device is NOT switched to Airplane mode and such beacons are caught by other devices during a flight, this would give some weird location readings :-)
  3. Will Apple extend this feature to a yet-to-be-introduced tag-like device, as in Bluetooth tiles? Then your tracking might not be limited to a phone anymore, but to anything that can be attached to something (e.g. Bluetooth tile to your keychain, sports bag, backpack etc.). This will totally crush the market for such tiles, because you won’t have to install a tile-specific app on your phone, let it run in the background on your device and hope that other people passing by the lost item also run the very same app to catch your tile’s distress signal …

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Labels: Apple

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