Apple’s AirTag: A Blessing and a Curse in the World of Tracking

In the whirlwind of tech innovations in 2021, Apple unveiled the AirTag, boasting state-of-the-art Bluetooth tracker capabilities coupled with ultra-wideband technology. It was heralded as not just a beacon for the impending wave of augmented reality but a nifty solution for those perpetually misplaced items, like the elusive TV remote. However, the looming shadow of cybersecurity concerns quickly overshadowed its glamorous entrance. Experts were wary of the potential misuse of this gadget for nefarious purposes, like stalking.

Their fears weren’t baseless. Numerous women recounted harrowing tales of discovering AirTags hidden in their handbags or clandestinely attached to their vehicles. This alarming misuse prompted a nationwide alert by U.S. police departments. And while Apple’s AirPods have similar tracking functionalities, their steeper price tag discourages potential abuse

Swiftly addressing these concerns, Apple initiated firmware upgrades in 2022 to deter such malicious activities. Even with alternatives like Tile in the market, Apple’s AirTag stands distinct due to its extensive integration with the brand’s ecosystem. Ranging from official uses, like the US Drug Enforcement Administration leveraging it to trace international drug consignments, to more controversial instances where it assisted a Texan in locating and confronting a car thief, the AirTag’s prevalence is undeniable.

But if you’re wondering whether a covert AirTag might be tailing you, here are some cues to consider:

Detecting Hidden AirTags For iPhone users with iOS 14.5 and above versions, an alert should ping if an unfamiliar AirTag is detected in proximity for a while. The exact duration remains unspecified by Apple. It’s essential to activate specific settings: ensure Bluetooth is on, Location Services is enabled under Privacy & Security, and Find My iPhone is active.

On detection of a foreign AirTag, iPhones offer the feature to sound an alarm on the AirTag, aiding in its location. And if you’re on iOS 16.2 or beyond, precision location can even pinpoint its exact hiding spot.

Android users weren’t left in the dark. Apple introduced the Tracker Detect application, allowing manual scans for AirTags. Later, Google introduced automatic alerts for undetected Bluetooth trackers for devices on Android 6.0 or newer.

However, relying on Bluetooth scanners might be hit or miss, as Eva Galperin, a cybersecurity specialist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, suggests based on her experiments.

For those without smartphones, visual and auditory clues might be your best bet. The AirTag, slightly more substantial than a coin, might beep if separated from its owner for over a day. However, don’t solely rely on this; many have devised ways to mute this sound.

Found a Suspicious AirTag? If you find an AirTag, the easiest way to disarm it is by ejecting its battery. Simply press down on its metallic Apple emblem and twist it anti-clockwise. The back will come off, revealing the battery.

If you suspect malicious intent behind the AirTag, it’s advisable to alert law enforcement. They, in collaboration with Apple, can trace back to the owner using the device’s serial number. This number is accessible by holding an NFC-enabled smartphone to the AirTag, or it can be found printed on the device.

In conclusion, while Apple’s AirTag has undoubtedly paved the way for modern tracking technology, it also reiterates the need for robust security features. Always be alert and stay safe.