Apple plans AirTag updates to address reports of stalking

11 Feb 2022

Image: © wachiwit/Stock.adobe.com

The updates include privacy warnings to deter potential stalkers, along with improved notifications and precision finding to detect unwanted AirTags

Apple has announced plans to update its AirTag product to prevent unwanted tracking, an issue that has been reported since its launch last year.

AirTags are small tracking devices designed to help users keep track of personal items like their keys, wallet, purse or backpack using the Find My app. However, there have been reports that the devices are being used to track people.

Future Human

In multiple cases, people received ‘unknown accessory detected’ notifications from their iPhone, alerting them that an AirTag was being used without their knowledge.

The tech giant said it has been actively working with law enforcement on any AirTag-related requests it receives. The company added that incidents of unwanted tracking or stalking are rare but “each instance is one too many”.

“AirTag was designed to help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or another person’s property, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products,” Apple said in a statement.

Upcoming changes

To help prevent this issue, Apple said it is putting new privacy warnings in an upcoming software update to try deter potential stalkers.

Once installed, every user that sets up their AirTag for the first time will see a message explaining that the AirTag is meant to track their own belongings, that using AirTag to track people without consent is a crime in many regions around the world and that the AirTag can detected by victims. The message will also explain that law enforcement can request identifying information about the owner of an AirTag.

Apple also plans to change the alert notification to make it clearer if an AirTag is detected instead of an ‘unknown accessory’.

To keep users informed, the tech company has updated its unwanted tracking support article. This page now includes more information on which Find My accessories may trigger an unwanted tracking alert, along with instructions on disabling products like the AirTag.

“There are also links to resources individuals can use if they feel their safety is at risk, such as the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the National Center for Victims of Crime,” Apple said.

The company said it is investigating additional updates that it plans to add later in the year. These include precision finding that lets users detect an unwanted AirTag easier, improvements to the unwanted tracking alert system and changes to the AirTag’s sound to make it easier to find.

“We design our products to provide a great experience, but also with safety and privacy in mind,” Apple added.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com