I Tag, You Tag, Everybody Tags!

Hazem Ibrahim, Rohail Asim, Matteo Varvello, Yasir Zaki

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Location tags are designed to track personal belongings. Nevertheless, there has been anecdotal evidence that location tags are also misused to stalk people. Tracking is achieved locally, e.g., via Bluetooth with a paired phone, and remotely, by piggybacking on location-reporting devices which come into proximity of a tag. This paper studies the performance of the two most popular location tags (Apple's AirTag and Samsung's SmartTag) through controlled experiments - with a known large distribution of location-reporting devices - as well as in-the-wild experiments - with no control on the number and kind of reporting devices encountered, thus emulating real-life use-cases. We find that both tags achieve similar performance, e.g., they are located 55% of the times in about 10 minutes within a 100∼m radius. It follows that real time stalking to a precise location via location tags is impractical, even when both tags are concurrently deployed which achieves comparable accuracy in half the time. Nevertheless, half of a victim's exact movements can be backtracked accurately (10m error) with just a one-hour delay, which is still perilous information in the possession of a stalker.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIMC 2023 - Proceedings of the 2023 ACM on Internet Measurement Conference
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9798400703829
StatePublished - Oct 24 2023
Event23rd Edition of the ACM Internet Measurement Conference, IMC 2023 - Montreal, Canada
Duration: Oct 24 2023Oct 26 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM SIGCOMM Internet Measurement Conference, IMC


Conference23rd Edition of the ACM Internet Measurement Conference, IMC 2023


  • location tags
  • privacy
  • tracking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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