'AirTags' appear to include privacy features to stop unwanted tracking

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2020
Apple looks to be including safety and privacy features in its "AirTags" accessory that could address concerns about unwanted tracking or stalking via the Find My app.

Credit: Jon Prosser/cconceptcreator
Credit: Jon Prosser/cconceptcreator


Those features were revealed by code strings buried in the first developer beta of iOS 14.3, which was briefly released and then pulled on Thursday.

Developer and MacRumors contributor Steve Moser, discovered the new "AirTags" features.

It looks like Apple is addressing safety/privacy concertns if you think someone placed an AirTag in your stuff with this line: "If you feel your safety is at risk due to this item, contact your local law enforcement. You may need the serial number of this item." https://t.co/SiZPNhAG28

-- Steve Moser (@SteveMoser)


One of the code strings reads "If you feel your safety is at risk due to this item, contact your local law enforcement. You may need the serial number of this item."

Another piece of evidence indicates that Apple could alert users with an "unknown accessory detected" prompt if they are carrying a tracking device that doesn't belong to them. "This item has been moving with you for a while. The owner can see its location," an alert reads.

Apple may also provide instructions on how to disassemble an unfamiliar "AirTags" tracking device so that users can stop sharing their location.

The security and safety features should help address concerns about unwanted tracking and stalking, such as if a bad actor surreptitiously places an AirTag device in someone's bag.

Other "AirTags" evidence found within the first iOS 14.3 beta include information on the initial setup process, apparent compatibility of the Find My app with third-party tracking devices, and a feature that allows a user to scan an AirTag and bring up its owners information.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,740member

    One of the code strings reads "If you feel your safety is at risk due to this item, contact your local law enforcement. You may need the serial number of this item."

    Another piece of evidence indicates that Apple could alert users with an "unknown accessory detected" prompt if they are carrying a tracking device that doesn't belong to them. "This item has been moving with you for a while. The owner can see its location," an alert reads.

    Apple may also provide instructions on how to disassemble an unfamiliar "AirTags" tracking device so that users can stop sharing their location.

    The security and safety features should help address concerns about unwanted tracking and stalking, such as if a bad actor surreptitiously places an AirTag device in someone's bag.

    Other "AirTags" evidence found within the first iOS 14.3 beta include information on the initial setup process, apparent compatibility of the Find My app with third-party tracking devices, and a feature that allows a user to scan an AirTag and bring up its owners information.

    What if the "target" is not an iPhone user?
  • Reply 2 of 10
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    mike1 said:

    One of the code strings reads "If you feel your safety is at risk due to this item, contact your local law enforcement. You may need the serial number of this item."

    Another piece of evidence indicates that Apple could alert users with an "unknown accessory detected" prompt if they are carrying a tracking device that doesn't belong to them. "This item has been moving with you for a while. The owner can see its location," an alert reads.

    Apple may also provide instructions on how to disassemble an unfamiliar "AirTags" tracking device so that users can stop sharing their location.

    The security and safety features should help address concerns about unwanted tracking and stalking, such as if a bad actor surreptitiously places an AirTag device in someone's bag.

    Other "AirTags" evidence found within the first iOS 14.3 beta include information on the initial setup process, apparent compatibility of the Find My app with third-party tracking devices, and a feature that allows a user to scan an AirTag and bring up its owners information.

    What if the "target" is not an iPhone user?
    Good question. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 10
    dws-2dws-2 Posts: 267member
    Rayz2016 said:
    mike1 said:

    One of the code strings reads "If you feel your safety is at risk due to this item, contact your local law enforcement. You may need the serial number of this item."

    Another piece of evidence indicates that Apple could alert users with an "unknown accessory detected" prompt if they are carrying a tracking device that doesn't belong to them. "This item has been moving with you for a while. The owner can see its location," an alert reads.

    Apple may also provide instructions on how to disassemble an unfamiliar "AirTags" tracking device so that users can stop sharing their location.

    The security and safety features should help address concerns about unwanted tracking and stalking, such as if a bad actor surreptitiously places an AirTag device in someone's bag.

    Other "AirTags" evidence found within the first iOS 14.3 beta include information on the initial setup process, apparent compatibility of the Find My app with third-party tracking devices, and a feature that allows a user to scan an AirTag and bring up its owners information.

    What if the "target" is not an iPhone user?
    Good question. 
    Then they don't get notified. Apple is doing its best, but there's only so much they can do. They can't make Google implement it, and they've done anything else.
    edited November 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 10
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,937member
    Rayz2016 said:
    mike1 said:

    One of the code strings reads "If you feel your safety is at risk due to this item, contact your local law enforcement. You may need the serial number of this item."

    Another piece of evidence indicates that Apple could alert users with an "unknown accessory detected" prompt if they are carrying a tracking device that doesn't belong to them. "This item has been moving with you for a while. The owner can see its location," an alert reads.

    Apple may also provide instructions on how to disassemble an unfamiliar "AirTags" tracking device so that users can stop sharing their location.

    The security and safety features should help address concerns about unwanted tracking and stalking, such as if a bad actor surreptitiously places an AirTag device in someone's bag.

    Other "AirTags" evidence found within the first iOS 14.3 beta include information on the initial setup process, apparent compatibility of the Find My app with third-party tracking devices, and a feature that allows a user to scan an AirTag and bring up its owners information.

    What if the "target" is not an iPhone user?
    Good question. 
    I wonder if they will include some sort of time-out feature. If the Air Tag doesn’t sync up with the owner’s phone after a while, maybe it stops transmitting real time information?  
    This is to help you find your own items (keys, wallet, iPad...) and you are not likely to need to track them for days.  I can even imagine you could disable the time-out feature if you report your device missing or stolen...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 10
    So these are more for lost items than stolen items.  If a thief has an iPhone and gets informed that the stolen item is following them, they can use the instructions to disable the stole items tag !
    beowulfschmidtRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 10
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 836member
    smiffy31 said:
    So these are more for lost items than stolen items.  If a thief has an iPhone and gets informed that the stolen item is following them, they can use the instructions to disable the stole items tag !
    Sure, but then the serial number of the iPhone doing the disabling would be tied to the tag and logged at Apple, therefore leading directly back to the thief. 
    mknelsonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 10
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    dws-2 said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    mike1 said:

    One of the code strings reads "If you feel your safety is at risk due to this item, contact your local law enforcement. You may need the serial number of this item."

    Another piece of evidence indicates that Apple could alert users with an "unknown accessory detected" prompt if they are carrying a tracking device that doesn't belong to them. "This item has been moving with you for a while. The owner can see its location," an alert reads.

    Apple may also provide instructions on how to disassemble an unfamiliar "AirTags" tracking device so that users can stop sharing their location.

    The security and safety features should help address concerns about unwanted tracking and stalking, such as if a bad actor surreptitiously places an AirTag device in someone's bag.

    Other "AirTags" evidence found within the first iOS 14.3 beta include information on the initial setup process, apparent compatibility of the Find My app with third-party tracking devices, and a feature that allows a user to scan an AirTag and bring up its owners information.

    What if the "target" is not an iPhone user?
    Good question. 
    Then they don't get notified. Apple is doing its best, but there's only so much they can do. They can't make Google implement it, and they've done anything else.
    Not sure that’s going to a very popular defence when some creep kills his ex-wife because he was able to track her with a hidden AirTag.  As someone has pointed out, the alert means this is more about finding stuff you’ve lost than recovering stolen items. If this is the case then the AirTag should probably make some sort of sound when someone is attempting to locate it. 
    JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 10
    “I wonder if they will include some sort of time-out feature. If the Air Tag doesn’t sync up with the owner’s phone after a while, maybe it stops transmitting real time information?  
    This is to help you find your own items (keys, wallet, iPad...) and you are not likely to need to track them for days.  I can even imagine you could disable the time-out feature if you report your device missing or stolen...”
    That would be in conflict with the idea of a company placing an air tag on expensive company assets that staff might carry with them. We were looking forward to defining employees home location as a “no track area“ and the tracking would only begin once the employee loaded up the company equipment and went out on the road for the day. It would stop when they returned home.  

    Our interest is keeping subsequent appointments during the day apprised of arrival times, and locating medical equipment that might be lost/left behind.  

    Dream preliminary discussions with staff, they felt that was a better plan than sharing their iPhone location.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 10
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    On a different note, another article here reckons that the headphones pictured are for the new Air Studios. 

    Looking here, it looks like they’re just a generic set of cans, unless Apple is also moving into luggage. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 10
    WTHWTH Posts: 25member
    smiffy31 said:
    So these are more for lost items than stolen items.  If a thief has an iPhone and gets informed that the stolen item is following them, they can use the instructions to disable the stole items tag !
    Which would make them completely useless for what most people would want to buy an AirTag for - to track a stolen item.  So basically Apple would cede that segment of the market to Tile, which is already used for exactly that purpose.

    I really hope Apple doesn't deliberately cripple one of its most interesting products in that way.
    gatorguywatto_cobra
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