Apple is right: When used correctly, AirTags are a “super easy way to keep track of all your stuff.” Unfortunately, this new tracking device meant for good can, like all things, be used for nefarious purposes.

Take a quick scroll through the headlines over the past two weeks and you will come across many incidents of stalking, theft, and harassment nationwide in which Apple AirTags were confirmed to have played a prominent role.

For example, Headline News recently reported on the use of AirTags to stalk Sports Illustrated model Brooks Nader. A prominent TikToker discovered an AirTag tracking her movements between her home and a bar. And police in New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia, among other cities, are proactively warning about AirTags being used to stalk, track police, and steal cars.

What exactly is an AirTag?

AirTags use a combination of “sensors, wireless signals and Apple’s extensive Find My network” to locate lost or misplaced items, such as keys, luggage, wallets, etc. Users are prompted to follow a beeping sound to locate items marked as misplaced. The closer you get, the louder the beep.

Users can also report items as missing. When doing so, they can opt to display personal contact information so that they can be contacted should someone find the missing item in question.

The device transmits over Ultra Wide Band (UWB), a long-range radio technology.For the consumer, UWB means greater battery life and more robust device compatibility.

Apple’s response to the misuse of AirTags 

Apple has always been one of the few big tech companies lauded for its commitment to privacy. That’s why it should come as no surprise to learn that Apple is taking this issue seriously. In fact, they built protections against misuse into the first release of the AirTags. This is quite impressive and has never been done by any other predecessor solution en masse.

As I explained in my interview with CBS News last week, so far Apple has done a good job of enhancing privacy protections to safeguard against the use of AirTags for nefarious purposes. 

 According to Apple, some of the main AirTag privacy protections include:

  • AirTags linked to Apple ID – Location data and history are not stored on the AirTag, and devices that relay the location of a lost AirTag stay anonymous and location data is encrypted
  • Mapping lost AirTags – Users may see where a lost AirTag is on a map if it’s picked up by someone else’s device, but won’t know the identity of the person that helps find it nor does Apple know the location because of the end-to-end encryption
  • AirTag Detected Notifications – If an AirTag that someone else owns is in your belongings and has been traveling with you, your iPhone will send you an “AirTag Detected” alert which will prevent someone from tracking you with a planted AirTag
  • Missing AirTag Notifications – An AirTag away from its owner for eight to 24 hours will automatically play a sound to alert you to its presence

What to do if you find an AirTag that shouldn’t be there

Despite Apple’s privacy protections, AirTags are increasingly being used for illegal purposes. People are finding them in their pockets, under their cars, in their backpacks and in other places that frequently travel locations with you.

If you find a device that you did not purposefully plant, take the following actions:

  1. Do not go home – Go to a safe location so that you’re in the presence of others
  2. Draft a report – Write down where you were when you found the AirTag and capture screenshots of alerts and warnings
  3. Remove the battery – Pop open the AirTag and remove the battery so it no longer transmits your location
  4. Call the police – They will investigate as a crime, conducting forensics on device serial number and issue a subpoena to Apple if necessary

It’s also essential to proactively protect your personal privacy and cybersecurity. At a bare minimum, make sure your personal networks and devices contain advanced threat protection to prevent cyberattacks, and remove your personal information from data broker websites and the dark web to reduce risk of identity theft.

I recognize that this is easier said than done. So, if you need help protecting your digital life from risks like the fraudulent Amazon email scam, contact us and let’s get you and your family set up with digital executive protection as soon as possible.