Apple AirTags could be used for surveillance, but not for long

Apple airtag tracking

It’s not unusual for new technology to have unintended consequences. Apple’s AirTags are designed to help people track and locate belongings. However, they have been raising concerns because, under the right circumstances, they can also be used to track people without their consent.

While AirTags already have anti-surveillance safeguards, Apple is making some improvements to make it even harder to track people with them. As it currently stands, an AirTag that is ‘travelling with you’ but not connected to your Apple ID will report itself after a period of time. This is usually via a series of beeps. However, it’s possible that an AirTag’s speaker could be tampered with or is not herd or understood. In this case, an errant AirTag slipped into someone’s luggage or car boot could reveal its location to the AirTag’s owner without the person’s knowledge or consent.

Apple also said in a recent statement, that, in a few occasions, it has been asked by police to help connect an AirTag used to track someone back to its owner. It is expected that Apple will continue to help police in investigations where AirTags are being used illegally.

Here’s Apple’s official statement about AirTag tracking

In the coming months, Apple is planning to improve AirTag privacy protection through a series of software updates. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. New Privacy Warnings – So when you purchase AirTags and set them up, you are greeted with a new warning stating that AirTags are meant to track belongings and using them to track people may be illegal in your region.
  2. Unknown Accessory Alerts – AirPods (3rd Generation), AirPods Pro and AirPods Max headphones have tracking built in and can located the same way as AirTags. If a pair of someone AirPods are travelling with you, for example, you should see a warning appear on your iPhone. However, the on-screen warning doesn’t specify the device, but rather, shows up as an ‘Unknown Accessory’ alert. This will be fixed so any trackable item travelling with you will report exactly what it is. This included 3rd party devices that are licensed by Apple to use its ‘Find My’ network.
  3. Precision Finding – this makes it easier to locate the AirTag that may be used to track you with your Phone. So once you get a warning that a AirTag or other trackable device is travelling with you, this will help you pinpoint its exact location. You’ll need an iPhone 11 or newer to make use of the feature, and it will guide you with a combination of on-screen prompts and tones.
  4. Display Alert – an errant AirTag will not only make a sound but also display a warning on your iPhone’s screen if it is following you around. This makes it clearer what is happening for those who don’t understand what the beeping alert means or can’t hear it.
  5. Refining Tracking Logic – you will now be alerted earlier when an AirTag is travelling with you. This will also provide less information to someone tracking your location.
  6. Tuning AirTag’s sound – the warning beep will now use louder tones making it easier to hear and hopefully more obvious.

What to do if you get an alert that an AirTag is tracking you