With the growing concerns of AirTags used for tracking/stalking people and other items, Apple has decided to make several changes to AirTags in recent updates in order to control its unwanted tracking use.Apple AirTags and Myths of Tracking – Let’s Explore
AirTag was released back on April 30, 2021, with the aim to assist Apple users to keep track of personal items, such as a purse, keys, backpacks, and similar other valuable items via the Find My app. With close to its one-year anniversary, AirTag has received both good and bad reviews. Users have found AirTags useful in finding lost items. For example, a person lost his wallet on the subway but managed to track it at a station across town just due to the AirTag. However, there are bad reviews too mostly related to its criminal use in tracking others. Therefore, this article will comprehensively discuss AirTags, its tracking concerns, and the new expected updates. So, let’s get started!
AirTag Working Principle – A Quick Look
Before we jump on the rising tracking concerns with AirTag, it is important to have a basic understanding of its working principle.
AirTag uses ultra-wideband technology and an extensive network of existing Apple devices to help you track lost/stolen items. It sends a secure Bluetooth signal that is detected by nearby Apple devices in the Find My network. After receiving the signal, those devices send the AirTag location to iCloud. So, when you open the Find My app to track your AirTag, it will provide you with its location on the map. You can even use the app to let the AirTag generate some sound so that you can find it easily. Apple has ensured that the whole process remains encrypted and anonymous in order to keep users’ privacy protected all the time.
AirTag Tracking Concerns
When we look at the benefits AirTags have to offer, then indeed it is a device we all need. However, its advanced tracking capabilities have made a lot of noise over the past few months owing to its growing illegal use. A man was arrested in Connecticut and charged with stalking after an AirTag was found by the police in the victim’s car. Similarly, model Brooks Nader also once informed her followers that an AirTag was slipped secretly into her coat one night in NY city. Moreover, the police of multiple states have also shown their concerns and warnings about the criminal use of AirTags.
New AirPods are also coming with AirTag similar tracking abilities, but they are a lot more expensive compared to AirTags. Therefore, criminals are more commonly using AirTags instead of AirPods. But do only AirTags are involved in criminal tracking tactics and not its other competitors, such as Tile, etc.
AirTags are driven by over billions of Apple users, so the strong Apple ecosystem makes them separate from its competitors. Although there are still concerns about tracking with others, the massive Apple ecosystem makes AirTags an easier way to carry out criminal activities efficiently.
Apple’s New Updates for AirTags
In response to the issues users were facing with AirTags, Apple made a few updates in the past and is planning to make a few more recently.
Back in June 2021, Apple updated the software of AirTags and reduced the alert time, once the AirTag is lost from the owner, to 8-24 hours instead of 3 days. In December 2021, Apple released a Tracker Detect app for Android devices, which empowers Android users to scan for Find My devices near them that are separated from owners (for at least 10 minutes).
Now, Apple is focused to take aggressive moves to handle the criminal use of AirTags with many new changes in the upcoming update. Some of the key changes coming to AirTags are as follow:
- Privacy Warning at AirTag Setup Stage: With the new software update, Apple is going to display a privacy warning when the AirTag is set for the first time. The warning will narrate that the device is solely meant to track belongings, not to track someone without consent. Moreover, it will narrate that tracking someone with AirTag is a criminal act in many regions and that law enforcement can also request for identity information of AirTag owners.
- Precision Finding: iPhone 11, 12, and 13 users will get the “precision finding” feature that lets the recipient of an unwanted tracking alert find the unknown AirTag with precision. With this feature, users can see the direction and distance of the unknown AirTag when it appears within range.
- Change of “Unknown Accessory Detected” to AirPods Near You: Many Apple users have complained about receiving an “Unknown Accessory Detected” alert on their devices. Apple is now ensuring that this alert is not shown when an AirTag is detected and only shows when you are near any AirPods Max, AirPods Pro, AirPods (3rd generation), or any other Find My network accessory.
- Readjusting AirTag’s Sound: Users that receive an alert of unwanted tracking are able to play a sound from the unknown AirTag to find it. Apple is looking to adjust the tone sequence to make it a bit louder for easier detection of AirTag.
- Updating Online Support Documentation: Apple has also updated its unwanted tracking support article to narrate the safety features integrated into AirPods, AirTag, and Find My network accessories. The article now offers all the information a user might need to deal with the unwanted tracking alert.
Other than the above-listed updates, Apple is also focusing on other changes that can minimize the use of AirTags in criminal activities. Moreover, Apple is also working with law enforcement and is willing to provide the Apple ID details of the AirTag owner if the company receives a valid request from law enforcement.
There is no doubt in accepting the fact that AirTags are being used for tracking others. Many cases have been reported so far and users are becoming more concerned about it. All these events have triggered Apple to implement more strategic measures to control the criminal use of AirTags. The above-listed updates and many new ones that we expect to see soon are going to somehow reduce the criminal use of AirTags. So, let’s wait and see how this whole AirTag tracking scenario shapes up in the future.