Facing privacy concerns about AirTags, Apple says it’s been working with law enforcement to track down users who’ve been abusing the devices for spying purposes.
If you misuse an AirTag to stalk someone, don’t be surprised if Apple teams up with law enforcement to help catch you.
“We have been actively working with law enforcement on all AirTag-related requests we’ve received,” the company said in a Thursday statement. “Based on our knowledge and on discussions with law enforcement, incidents of AirTag misuse are rare; however, each instance is one too many.”
The statement comes amid concerns that AirTags can be exploited to track people without their permission. In recent months, they’ve been tied to a growing number of stalking incidents involving an AirTag being placed in a victim’s car, pocket, or bag.
In response, Apple said it’s been working with law enforcement to help crack down on the malicious AirTag use. In a bit of irony, the company said the AirTag itself can make it easy to track down the perpetrators behind such crimes.
“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,” the company said. “We have successfully partnered with them on cases where information we provided has been used to trace an AirTag back to the perpetrator, who was then apprehended and charged.”
Apple is also working on several upcoming changes to the product. One of them includes using a new warning message during the AirTag setup process, which will remind people that abusing the device for unwanted tracking is a crime in many parts of the world. The same warning message will also make it clear each AirTag is linked to the user’s Apple ID.
The company is also working on a new Precision Finding feature, which promises to help an iPhone user locate an unwanted AirTag in their vicinity with better specificity.
“iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 users will be able to use Precision Finding to see the distance and direction to an unknown AirTag when it is in range,” Apple says. “As an iPhone user moves, Precision Finding fuses input from the camera, ARKit, accelerometer, and gyroscope to guide them to the AirTag through a combination of sound, haptics, and visual feedback.”
The feature could make it easier to find a rogue AirTag in the event it’s tucked deep inside a seat cushion or if it’s had the speaker deliberately removed. Currently, a rogue AirTag will beep at a random time between eight to 24 hours after it’s separated from its original owner. However, users have discovered you can kill the beep alert by pulling out the device’s internal speaker. A few online merchants did that themselves to sell “Silent AirTags,” which can be used for more insidious tracking.
Other changes coming to the product include making the beep alert louder and warning iPhone users earlier when a rogue AirTag is in their vicinity. For Android users, Apple has released a free app, capable of detecting nearby AirTags that have been separated from their original owners.
“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,” the company added. “Unwanted tracking has long been a societal problem, and we took this concern seriously in the design of AirTag.”
If you encounter a rogue AirTag on your person or in your belongings, Apple has published a detailed article on how you can respond and protect yourself. An AirTag can also be easily disabled by removing its battery.
Credits: Michael Kan