Addressing the stalking epidemic involving AirTags, Apple has published a new article on the updates Apple has already introduced on AirTag and Find My Network to prevent unwarranted tracking and has also announced several new anti-stalking features coming later this year.
Recently, numerous stalking reports made news in which unknown AirTags were discovered hidden in victims’ vehicles possibly by car thieves to track and steal them later. Although Apple’s safety features notified the victims of an unknown tracker traveling with them and locate them, some complained that those safety alerts are ignored because they can also be triggered by other Bluetooth-enabled devices and the sound of the ping is not loud.
The tech company says that it is aware of safety complaints regarding AirTag’s safety and, after working with safety groups and law enforcement agencies, Apple will release new updates to AirTag and Find My Network to prevent unwanted tracking alerts for benign reasons, and misuse of AirTag by bad actors for criminal and malicious purposes.
New privacy warnings, and AirPods alert coming in an upcoming software update
New privacy warnings during AirTag setup: Every user setting up AirTag for the first time will see a warning message that will discourage people to use it for tracking people without consent,
“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, that AirTag is designed to be detected by victims, and that law enforcement can request identifying information about the owner of the AirTag.”
Addressing alert issues for AirPods: To distinguish between safety alerts triggered by an AirPod and AirTag, Apple will change the “Unknown Accessory Detected” alert. For AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or a third-party Find My network accessory, users will receive a new alert to show that “AirPods have been traveling with them”.
Both of the aforementioned features will be released in an upcoming software update, presumably iOS 15.4 which is in beta.
The Updated support documentation shows additional information on which Find My accessories may cause an unwanted tracking alert, updated information on what to do after receiving an alert, instructions to disable an AirTag, AirPods, or Find My network accessor, links to safety resources, and more.
In addition, Apple also plans to release more new anti-staking features later this year which will make it difficult to misuse the tracker, especially an AirTag with a tampered speaker.
New display alert with sound, alert logic, and other anti-stalking features coming later this year
- Precision Finding: Owners of iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 series models will be able to track unknown AirTag with precision.
- Display alert with sound: When an AirTag will sound a ping, iPhone users will receive an alert so they can locate it either by playing a sound or Precision Finding. “This will help in cases where the AirTag may be in a location where it is hard to hear, or if the AirTag speaker has been tampered with.”
- Refining unwanted tracking alert logic: The updated unwanted tracking alert system to notify users earlier when an unknown AirTag or Find My network accessory is detected traveling with them.
- Tuning AirTag’s sound: The tone sequence of AirTag will be adjusted to play the loudest tones to easily locate an unknown tracker.
Like two sides of a coin, where AirTags have helped users find their lost bikes, track belongs, it has also enabled miscreants to track people. Therefore, Apple says it is committed to preventing such unwarranted tracking.
We design our products to provide a great experience, but also with safety and privacy in mind. Across Apple’s hardware, software, and services teams, we’re committed to listening to feedback and innovating to make improvements that continue to guard against unwanted tracking.