Can AirTags Track You?

How to Protect Yourself From Unwanted AirTag Tracking

Photo by Mark Chan on Unsplash

When Apple first launched its Tile competitor, it was welcomed as an affordable, high-tech solution to keep track of your keys or backpack. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and not everyone has been using AirTags the way they were intended to be used.

The Darker Side of AirTags

Eva Galperin, Director of Cyber-Security at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that Apple’s svelte Airtag was “a perfect tool for stalking.”

Unfortunately, she’s right.

There are countless reports in the media about people (mostly women) who have been alerted by their phones about the presence of an AirTag that had been tracking their location.

In addition, Newsweek detailed how car thieves use Apple’s AirTags to track high-end cars. The thieves attach an AirTag to the vehicle when it is parked in a public place and then track it so they can steal it from the owner’s driveway under cover of darkness.

Still not convinced? The Washington Post and The New York Times have both conducted independent tests that show how easy it is to track someone without their knowledge using an AirTag.

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

How to Find an AirTag That Is Tracking You

Apple has always maintained that AirTags are to “help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or another person’s property.

However, they knew that the potential for misuse was always present, so they built-in some protections that were designed to try and make this less of a temptation for their more nefarious users.

iPhone owners receive an alert on their phone if an unknown AirTag is found to be tracking them. It appears as a pop-up notification on their iPhone.

Android users can download Tracker Detect, an app Apple created to help detect unwanted AirTags on Android. It won’t notify you automatically like an iPhone does, but if you suspect that you’re being tracked, you can open the app to scan for AirTags in your vicinity.

Once an AirTag has been detected, you can use the Find My app (or Tracker Detect) to play a sound on the AirTag to help you locate it. These apps also have instructions for removing the battery and disabling an AirTag after you have located one.

Photo by Đức Trịnh on Unsplash

More AirTag Security Is Coming

As well-intentioned as these measures are, they’re not enough to deter a determined criminal. For instance, there was an unsettling story in PCMag recently about “silent AirTags.” These modified trackers had their speakers removed and were sold on Etsy and eBay.

Apple knows it needs to do more to put minds at ease.

On February 10, 2022, Apple released a statement with the additional measures it plans to introduce to help ensure public safety with AirTags.

These additional steps include:

  • Additional warnings on setup to remind owners that using an AirTag for tracking people is a crime and that law enforcement can request identifying information on the registered owners of an AirTag.
  • Louder alert tones to make AirTags easier to find.
  • The ability for owners of an iPhone 11, 12, or 13 to use “precision finding” in the Find My app to see the distance and direction of an AirTag.
  • An updated Apple support article on how to deal with unwanted tracking.

These additional security measures are slated to be released in 2022.

Should You Be Worried About AirTag Tracking?

As the reporter for The New York Times will attest, the AirTag is not the only device that is capable of tracking the location of a person. Devices that perform this “service” are freely available on sites like Amazon.

The technology to track the location of another person existed long before AirTags and will doubtless exist long after AirTags.

In short, an AirTag is cheap, effective, and readily available. But it’s not the only tool for the job.

So, should you be worried about AirTag tracking?

No, but you should be vigilant. If you suspect that someone is tracking your movements, contact your local law enforcement and use the information above to help you find out if an AirTag is being used for that purpose.

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