Apple cracking down on unwanted tracking through AirTags with new safety features

Police departments have been warning communities about 'AirTag stalking,' the use of the device to track other people, vehicles

Apple has announced several upcoming changes to its AirTag product in an attempt to crack down on unwanted tracking.

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AirTags, which launched last April for $29 apiece, allow users to keep track of their personal items, such as keys, wallets, purses, backpacks and luggage through Apple's "Find My' app.

Police departments have recently warned that people with criminal intent may be using the devices to track other people — or their vehicles — through "AirTag stalking."

A key ring containing an AirTag attached to a rucksack inside the Apple Store George Street on April 30, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Apple's latest accessory, the AirTag is a small device that helps people keep track of belongings, using Apple's Find My network to locate lost items like keys, wallet, or a bag. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

A key ring containing an AirTag attached to a rucksack inside the Apple Store George Street on April 30, 2021, in Sydney, Australia.  (James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

"We’ve become aware that individuals can receive unwanted tracking alerts for benign reasons, such as when borrowing someone’s keys with an AirTag attached or when traveling in a car with a family member’s AirPods left inside," the tech giant wrote in an update on its website Thursday. "We also have seen reports of bad actors attempting to misuse AirTag for malicious or criminal purposes." 

While Apple acknowledged that incidents of AirTag misuse are "rare," the company has been working with law enforcement to track down and charge perpetrators who engage in unwanted tracking. Every AirTag has a unique serial number and paired AirTags are associated with an Apple ID. Apple can provide the paired account details in response to a subpoena or valid request from law enforcement.

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Going forward, all AirTag users will receive a new warning upon setup that tracking other people without their consent is considered a crime in many regions around the world and that law enforcement can request identifying information about AirTag owners.

AirTags

New setup warning for AirTags (Apple)

Later this year, iPhone 11, 12 and 13 users will be introduced to a "Precision Finding" capability, which will allow recipients of an unwanted tracking alert to locate a nearby, unknown AirTag using a combination of sounds, haptics and visual feedback. 

AirTag alert

An iPhone displays an alert for an unknown AirTag or Find My accessory (Apple)

Other AirTag software updates rolling out later this year include earlier unwanted tracking alerts when an unknown AirTag or Find My network accessory may be traveling with users, louder alert tones and a display alert for cases where it is hard to hear or when AirTag speakers have been tampered with.

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Apple's unwanted tracking support page will be updated to include additional explanations of which Find My accessories may trigger an unwanted tracking alert, more visuals to provide specific examples of such alerts and updated information on what to do after receiving an alert, including instructions for disabling an AirTag or Find My network accessory. It also includes links to the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the National Center for Victims of Crime for individuals who feel their safety is at risk.

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"We design our products to provide a great experience, but also with safety and privacy in mind," the company added. "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."