Apple updates AirTag safety features following reports of misuse
Apple's AirTag devices will soon undergo software updates intended to advance safety and privacy features, the company announced Thursday. The new steps come after some people reported that stalkers used the small Bluetooth device to track their movements.
"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," Apple said in a statement.
Apple said updates will include an alert for users during AirTag setup that clarifies the unlawfulness of using the device to stalk others, and that law enforcement can request and access AirTag information, including the Apple ID it is registered to, if needed.
In the same software update, Apple said it will update its "Unknown Accessory Detected" alerts to exclude certain versions of AirPod headphones. If those AirPods are traveling with a person, the person will be notified that they are headphones, rather than an "unknown accessory."
The company is also investigating a series of upcoming AirTag updates, including precision finding, which would allow those who receive "Unknown Accessory Detected" alerts to precisely locate the AirTag. Other potential updates include making the sound AirTags emit louder and sending out the "Unknown Accessory Detected" alert sooner.
"We hope this starts an industry trend for others to also provide these sorts of proactive warnings in their products," Apple said.
An AirTag is activated when it is paired with an Apple product and attached to an item, like luggage or keys, to indicate the item's location in real-time. But some people have reported that stalkers use AirTag to track victims by attaching the tags to them or their belongings without consent.
One woman told "Inside Edition" chief investigative correspondent Lisa Guerrero that she found an AirTag in her car's gas tank. She then received an alert on her iPhone that an "unknown accessory" was following her. Another alleged victim reported that she felt "helpless" when she discovered that a stranger was tracking her.
Apple insisted Thursday that, based on discussions it had with law enforcement, "incidents of AirTag misuse are rare." The company said it is actively working with officials on all reports of AirTag-related incidents. "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 said.
The company advised those with iPhones who receive an AirTag alert tap it and press the "Play Sound" button, which should prompt a noise to play from the tag so that you can find it.
Upon finding an unknown AirTag, hold an iPhone or NFC-capable smartphone near the tag and a notification will appear, bringing you to a website that provides information about the tag, Apple said on its updated resource page.
Android users who detect unknown tags can download a Tracker Detect app to see if an AirTag is traveling with them.
Apple encourages those who feel that their safety is at risk to contact local law enforcement.
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