Thursday, February 10, 2022

AirTag Updates to Address Unwanted Tracking

Apple (Hacker News):

In an upcoming software update, every user setting up their AirTag for the first time will see a message that clearly states that 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.


We’ve heard from users who have reported receiving an “Unknown Accessory Detected” alert. We’ve confirmed this alert will not display if an AirTag is detected near you — only AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or a third-party Find My network accessory. In the same software update, we will be updating the alert users receive to indicate that AirPods have been traveling with them instead of an “Unknown Accessory.”

Juli Clover:

While these are the immediate changes that Apple is making, Apple is also working on new safety features set to be implemented later this year. Precision Finding, improved display alerts, and louder sounds will make AirTags more difficult to use for people-tracking purposes.

Nick Heer:

But all of these software changes are, necessarily, iOS software updates. The sole recourse available for Android users is downloading the Tracker Detect app — which has apparently been installed over a hundred thousand times since it launched in mid-December — and manually scanning for AirTags every so often.


Even in the U.S., where iOS is the market share leader, Android still represents 47% of smartphone users. That represents tens of millions of people in the U.S. alone who are vulnerable to being tracked by an AirTag to a precise degree, thanks to iOS’ large market share. What about them?

John Gruber:

The same features that help prevent AirTags from being used to stalk people without their knowing could also alert a thief that whatever it is they’ve stolen has an AirTag attached. There’s no way for AirTags to serve both purposes, so Apple is increasing the protections against unwanted tracking, and emphasizing that AirTags are solely intended for finding your own lost items.


Update (2022-02-16): Kashmir Hill (Hacker News):

I decided to examine both claims by planting three AirTags, three Tiles, and a GPS tracker on my husband and his belongings to see how precisely they revealed his movements and which ones he discovered.


When he got into Manhattan, the AirTag became my most powerful tracker, outperforming the GPS device, and allowing me to tell a photographer exactly where he was at all times.

The Tile tracker was not quite as well-informed. Its system is similar to Apple’s but far fewer people have the Tile app on their phones than own Apple devices.


The alert said he could make the AirTag play a sound, but when he attempted to do so, his phone wouldn’t connect to the device. This happened multiple times, and he started to get frustrated.

Juli Clover:

New York Attorney General Letitia James today sent out a consumer alert with “safety recommendations” to protect New Yorkers from AirTags (via The Mac Observer).

Update (2022-07-06): Hannah Rose May:

An apple AirTag was put on me to track my location Saturday night. I’m sharing what happened to me so you know what to look for as I had never heard of this prior to Saturday night.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

This is idiotic. Is there anything that people want to track with AirTags which isn’t also a target of theft? I bought a 4 pack of AirTags and there’s not a single thing that I want to use it for which doesn’t have either a primary or secondary use as theft tracking. Except now the thieves will know they’re being tracked. Beyond stupid!!!

I think the best way forward for apple is to quietly exit this whole market segment.

It is beyond my comprehension how Apple didn’t see this all coming well before AirTags ever released. Now untold numbers of people have paid for a product that won’t do the thing, stolen item recovery, they bought it for.

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