Apple's New AirTag Is in Hot Water: What's the Device Used For?

What was meant to be a way for people to keep track of belongings and connect with family has turned into a tool for stalking. Does Apple's AirTag cause more harm than good?

Robin Hill-Gray - Author

Jan. 10 2022, Published 12:20 p.m. ET

Apple’s latest technological development has gotten the company in hot water with consumers. The Apple AirTag was created to be an innovative and easy way for users to keep up with their belongings or stay connected with family and friends.

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However, people have been using AirTags to conduct surveillance on unaware strangers—mainly women. What are AirTags and how do they work? Why do AirTags make it easy to track strangers?

How do Apple AirTags work?

AirTags works by sending a Bluetooth signal to nearby Apple devices and it displays the AirTage under the Find My Network. According to the Apple website, the tags can send the user's location to iCloud and are encrypted. The tag comes with a built-in lost mode that can be activated by the owner at any time. Only the owner of the AirTag can see the exact location since the location data isn't stored on the tag itself, the tag is also anonymous.

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Name AirTag
Source: Apple Website

Window pops up on Iphone to name AirTag

To connect the tag to an iPhone, a one-tap option is available once the tag is activated. When the tag is connected to the iPhone, the owner can enter a name for it if they desire to. Regarding the AirTag battery life, Apple said, “AirTag is designed to keep going for more than a year on a standard battery than you can easily replace.” An AirTag owner will get an alert from their phone when it's time to replace the battery.

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AirTags can be used to stalk strangers.

The New York Post reported that swimsuit model Brooks Nader had a disturbing experience with an Apple AirTag. She said that while she was in New York City, her iPhone notified her that an “unknown accessory” was attached to her person and moving with her. She shared the experience with her followers on Instagram and said that the device was tracking for at least 5 hours to every place she went, “[it belonged to] no one in my ‘network.’ It also wasn’t a phone or tablet, it was an item.”

Nader said that the Apple AirTag wasn't hers and that someone likely slipped into her bag without her knowledge. In her Instagram post, she tagged Apple and questioned if the company had considered the potential dangers of creating a tracking device like the AirTag. A spokesperson for Apple told The New York Post, “We take customer safety very seriously and are committed to AirTag’s privacy and security… We are raising the bar on privacy for our users and the industry..."

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A woman in Maryland named Jeana tweeted her experience of someone placing an AirTag on her car. She said, “Someone attached an Apple AirTag to the underside of my front wheel well while I was inside a bar.” While Jeana was driving, she kept receiving an alert on her phone showing the notification, “AirTag Found Moving With You.” Jeana said that she had previously received that notification if someone was near her with an AirTag and happened to be going in the same direction as her.

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Jeana tweeted that she chose to divert her route and go to a safe location where she checked her belongings. When she didn’t find the AirTag, she wondered if it had been placed on her car. Not wanting to check her car at 2:00 a.m., she spent the night somewhere else and her friend found the tag under her wheel well the next morning.

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Source: YouTube

CBSN reports on AirTag risks of stalking

What will Apple do about the stalking issues?

Other reports have shown that unwanted surveillance continues to be a growing problem for AirTags. The product might be doing more harm than good. Apple mentions unwanted tracking on its AirTag website page and says that it's “designed to discourage unwanted tracking." If someone else’s AirTag finds its way into your belongings, your iPhone will notice that it’s traveling with you and send you an alert.

Apple also claims that when a person is with or near someone who also has an AirTag or is in a public space where multiple people have an AirTag, the alerts aren't triggered unless it's separated from its owners. However, the above anecdotes suggest that notifications appear if someone is near them with an AirTag and moving in the same direction. It isn't certain what Apple plans to do to address these alarming issues. We'll have to wait and see if AirTags get discontinued or altered.


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