Apple AirTags: Measures against unwanted tracking


The Apple group has announced steps to counter the growing complaints of many customers about the misuse of its AirTags. In addition to working with security authorities, the main focus for the company is to expand tracking.

AirTags: finding lost items with the crowd

Apple developed small key tags in 2021 with which its customers can find lost items. Whether keys, clothes, bags, electronic devices or even vehicles, if they are equipped with an AirTag, they can be found. To do this, their owners mark them as lost and tag them with personal data. Other users can then identify them and report them as found.

Tracking with Bluetooth, NFC, and UWB

This tracking for Iphone, Ipad or Mac users is made possible by Apple’s crowdsourcing Find my network. A network that now has about a billion devices that can detect Bluetooh signals. The system consists of a card that resides in the Find my app, which in turn uses near field communication (NFC). Owners of IPhones from generation 11 onwards also have the option to significantly increase search hit accuracy using Ultra Wideband technology (UWB).

AirTag popular with stalkers and car thieves

Although not intended for use on humans, customer complaints have been piling up lately. Again and again, foreign AirTags are found in personal items such as handbags or clothing. The little finders have also been discovered behind car license plates. They are often accused of unauthorized tracking of ex-partners or even of preparing car thefts.

Apple: Problem recognized, problems averted?

When the technology was introduced, Apple had already built in functions that were supposed to alert users to unusual things in their environment. Strange AirTags that stay too long in the immediate vicinity are registered and reported as strange. Tags that are also in places where their reported owner is not for several hours will trigger a warning tone. This is to inform potential targets of the item’s placement.

More accurate warnings than before

However, instead of just alerting users that unknown accessories are with them as before, Apple now plans to provide faster and more accurate information. Among other things, louder tones are to be used for identification. A more precise location determination of the device is supposed to succeed via ARKit, gyroscope, camera and accelerometer.

In addition, all users are assured during the initial setup of AirTags that Apple considers any unwanted tracking of people to be a criminal offense. And as has been the case since the technology’s inception, law enforcement agencies will be readily provided with all available data to apprehend the perpetrators.

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