Apple released AirTags back in the spring of 2021. The small discs are Bluetooth trackers to help you keep a hold of your belongings. Instead of using Bluetooth, they securely use Apple devices nearby to determine their location, sending it back to you.
While AirTags were intended to help you find your keys (and other such objects), a small number of people have begun to use AirTags for malicious tracking. There have been reports of AirTags being slipped into people’s pockets or vehicles to track them.
Obviously, Apple didn’t intend for AirTags to be used in this way. In fact, the company specifically said, “we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products”. Apple announced it’s rolling out some new AirTags features to help reduce the risk of unwanted tracking.
In a software update expected soon, Apple said it will add a message during AirTags setup explaining that the trackers are meant to track belongings and that using an AirTag to track people without consent is a crime. This message is unlikely to halt any would-be criminals, but it certainly can’t hurt.
In the same update, Apple will improve the “Unknown Accessory Detected” alert for AirTags, and tweak the alert for AirPods found nearby. All of these changes have been added to Apple’s support documentation.
Perhaps the biggest anti-unwanted-tracking features are set to release later this year. In a future update, anyone with an iPhone 11 or later will be able to use Precision Finding to accurately find an unknown AirTag in range, just like the normal Precision Finding feature.
In the future update, Apple will also show alerts on-screen for unknown AirTags nearby, instead of just playing a sound. Apple is also improving its unwanted AirTag detection, and tweaking the devices’ soundwave to make them louder.
Apple already has some protective measures in place. The current alerts are the first-ever proactive system to alert you of unwanted tracking, and these future updates are set to improve the alerts.
The misuse of AirTags is not in any way Apple’s fault, though arguably the company should have seen it coming. But similar devices have been used for the same purposes for a much longer time. It’s great to see Apple improving AirTags to reduce unwanted tracking, though.
Remember, if you find an unknown AirTag near you, you can always remove the battery by twisting off the metal plate.