Apple reveals further details about AirTag's anti-stalking feature

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited April 22
Alongside iPhone notifications when someone else's AirTag is with you, Apple has designed more ways to prevent malicious tracking -- or theft.

Apple AirTags
Apple AirTags


When Apple unveiled its new AirTag tracking device, it also explained how iPhone users could detect when someone else is using one to track them. Apple then later outlined how people without iPhones could avoid being stalked using this technology, but now executives have revealed more.

According to Fast Company, Apple says privacy was paramount from the start of development. And that the company sees this as its key differentiator from rival firms, although Apple did not name any.






"When it came to designing our own product, we thought carefully about how to get this right in a way that no one else in the industry's ever done before," Kaiann Drance, Apple's VP of worldwide iPhone product marketing, told Fast Company. "You'll see that we designed for the privacy of AirTag owners and non-owners, as well as making these benefits opened up to third-party products as well."

An iPhone user will automatically receive a notification that an unknown AirTag has been following them. Non-iPhone users can't have that feature, but Apple has two solutions.

The first is to do with alerting someone that they are being tracked. If the AirTag owner is apart from their device for around three days, the AirTag will make a sound.

The idea is that the sound will alert a non-iPhone user to the existence of the tracking device, and hopefully help them locate it.

Beyond this, though, there is the issue of what to do about being tracked in this way. And Apple has considered that too.

"If you're being tracked you could contact law enforcement," continues Drance. The owner of an AirTag can be identified by Apple when authorities request it.

"What the serial number is used for," says Drance, "is when you first set up your AirTag. It is paired with an Apple ID, along with some additional information such as your name, your email address, your date of birth, and things like that, which [Apple] could provide to law enforcement if asked for, with the proper warrants and process."

AirTag has also been designed so that Android phones can read information from them. Given that, the serial number, and the sound that an AirTag can play, Apple reportedly believes that stalkers will be deterred from using AirTag.

Similarly, the company believes that there will be few thefts of AirTags, once they've been used. Just as iPhone thefts have been radically reduced because of Apple's iPhone Activation Lock, so every AirTag is paired to one owner.

A lost or stolen AirTag cannot be used with someone else's iPhone. It has to be unpaired first, and that means theft is likely to be rare.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    I wonder tho, with this new info in mind, how well does AirTag protect the privacy of the original user?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 57
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,672member
    This is called "thinking it through".
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 57
    Hum.....so if someone stole like a bicycle with an AirTag and they had an iPhone, would they “receive a notification that an unknown AirTag has been following them”?
    pulseimagesrynoyesbloggerblogcy_starkmantenthousandthingswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 57
    Ooh, I got another privacy concern....saw this on macrumors 

    “If you come across a lost AirTag, or if someone comes across your lost AirTag, it can be scanned with any smartphone that's equipped with NFC to bring up contact information.”

    So if you wanted to know the contact info a person you like....then you could scan their keys, bicycles, or whatever exposed AirTag that is left alone?
  • Reply 5 of 57
    Hum.....so if someone stole like a bicycle with an AirTag and they had an iPhone, would they “receive a notification that an unknown AirTag has been following them”?
    Yes - that is a fundamental element of AirTags - they are less an anti-theft measure than they are a "find-my-item" measure.  This is distinct from find my phone which is designed to lean a little more into anti-theft as the phone itself is the potential target of theft (for example, not the case of the phone or the bag in which the phone might be).
    MustSeeUHDTVStrangeDaysviclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 57
    Hank2.0Hank2.0 Posts: 117member
    The problem with making something fool-proof is the Good Lord keeps making better fools.
    In the end, after all the best efforts have been made, the real test of hacks or unintended consequences is putting it out in the real world with all its infinite possibilities.
    edited April 22 mike1dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 57
    omasouomasou Posts: 168member
    I'm a bit more confused.

    Apple thought of a use case, I hadn't. That someone might try to add an AirTag to you or something you own to track you and would warn you and play a sound. That's good.

    But it doesn't answer the question about what if I have an AirTagged item stolen. Will it warn people nearby that my AirTag is hiding in the stolen item?

    I foresee a large or large number of knowledge base articles arriving with the release of the AirTags. :)
    edited April 22 watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 57
    clexmanclexman Posts: 165member
    The anti-stalking “feature” is going to kill these for so many people. Like many parents, I’d love to add one to my kids backpack and a zillion other things, but teachers are going to get annoyed when these are beeping in class and alerting their phones constantly.

    I foresee many firmware updates to improve these “features” in the future. Hopefully they work good in the real world, but there are going to be a ton of positive and negative stories. 
    viclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 57
    It isn’t coincidence that Apple is making clear the features in AirTags which aren’t a part of Tile, on the eve of supposed Congressional hearings to determine if there has been anticompetitive behavior.

    Tile can claim day and night they are being Sherlocked, but unless they can show similar care in protecting the security of those who may unwittingly be tracked with Tile beacons, then there isn’t much to complain about.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 57
    rwesrwes Posts: 191member
    Ooh, I got another privacy concern....saw this on macrumors 

    “If you come across a lost AirTag, or if someone comes across your lost AirTag, it can be scanned with any smartphone that's equipped with NFC to bring up contact information.”

    So if you wanted to know the contact info a person you like....then you could scan their keys, bicycles, or whatever exposed AirTag that is left alone?
    Maybe? I say that because maybe until it's in 'lost mode' and away from owner it doesn't broadcast that info? E.g. I'm near my keys with an AirTag on them, it wont broadcast any details?

    I thought I read that elsewhere. But I very well may have confused something else I read.
    MustSeeUHDTVpscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 57
    Will an AirTag unpair when the battery is removed?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 57
    ackpfftackpfft Posts: 23member
    clexman said:
    The anti-stalking “feature” is going to kill these for so many people. Like many parents, I’d love to add one to my kids backpack and a zillion other things, but teachers are going to get annoyed when these are beeping in class and alerting their phones constantly.

    I foresee many firmware updates to improve these “features” in the future. Hopefully they work good in the real world, but there are going to be a ton of positive and negative stories. 
    You will just have to make sure to visit with your children every 3 days-  no  get-away vacations for you!! 😜
    StrangeDaystokyojimuviclauyycbageljoeywatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 57
    rynoyesrynoyes Posts: 14member
    Hum.....so if someone stole like a bicycle with an AirTag and they had an iPhone, would they “receive a notification that an unknown AirTag has been following them”?
    Yeah and they would find the air tag and chunk it in the trash.  So it’s useless.  Just use a tile.
    williamlondonpscooter63
  • Reply 14 of 57
    rynoyesrynoyes Posts: 14member
    martinp13 said:
    Will an AirTag unpair when the battery is removed?
    Is the battery even replaceable? Or do you have to buy a new one every year.  
    pscooter63
  • Reply 15 of 57
    rynoyesrynoyes Posts: 14member
    omasou said:
    I'm a bit more confused.

    Apple thought of a use case, I hadn't. That someone might try to add an AirTag to you or something you own to track you and would warn you and play a sound. That's good.

    But it doesn't answer the question about what if I have an AirTagged item stolen. Will it warn people nearby that my AirTag is hiding in the stolen item?

    I foresee a large or large number of knowledge base articles arriving with the release of the AirTags. :)
    This!!!
    pscooter63
  • Reply 16 of 57
    Ooh, I got another privacy concern....saw this on macrumors 

    “If you come across a lost AirTag, or if someone comes across your lost AirTag, it can be scanned with any smartphone that's equipped with NFC to bring up contact information.”

    So if you wanted to know the contact info a person you like....then you could scan their keys, bicycles, or whatever exposed AirTag that is left alone?
    Only if the owner of the AirTag puts it into 'lost mode' will their contact information be readable by NFC. So in your scenario of scanning someones tag hanging from their backpack as they ride the train or left alone in a classroom while they go to the restroom - it wouldn't broadcast contact info in those scenarios.
    StrangeDaysmike1Rayz2016MustSeeUHDTVwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 57
    rynoyes said:
    martinp13 said:
    Will an AirTag unpair when the battery is removed?
    Is the battery even replaceable? Or do you have to buy a new one every year.  
    The battery is replaceable. From the AirTag page on Apples site: "AirTag is designed to keep going more than a year on a standard battery you can easily replace. And your iPhone lets you know when itʼs time to pop in a new one."
    bloggerblogroundaboutnowwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 57
    Ooh, I got another privacy concern....saw this on macrumors 

    “If you come across a lost AirTag, or if someone comes across your lost AirTag, it can be scanned with any smartphone that's equipped with NFC to bring up contact information.”

    So if you wanted to know the contact info a person you like....then you could scan their keys, bicycles, or whatever exposed AirTag that is left alone?
    I believe your device is only used to let Apple know the location of the AirTag with that serial number. Apple then lets the paired user know that location; no personally identifiable information is revealed.  YOU never see that personal info, as Apple only reveals that to law enforcement under the conditions stated.
    StrangeDaysviclauyycMustSeeUHDTVwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 57
    omasou said:
    I'm a bit more confused.

    Apple thought of a use case, I hadn't. That someone might try to add an AirTag to you or something you own to track you and would warn you and play a sound. That's good.

    But it doesn't answer the question about what if I have an AirTagged item stolen. Will it warn people nearby that my AirTag is hiding in the stolen item?

    I foresee a large or large number of knowledge base articles arriving with the release of the AirTags. :)
    FTA: “ The first is to do with alerting someone that they are being tracked. If the AirTag owner is apart from their device for around three days, the AirTag will make a sound.

    So, yes, it will alert the potential thief that there is an AirTag hiding in the stolen item but not for three days. As others have mentioned, AirTags purpose is to find misplaced things not as a means to track stolen items. It could be used to track a stolen item but that isn’t really what it’s designed to do.

    I’ve seen a few articles where someone used Find My to locate a stolen iPhone or iPad, I’m sure it happens. I’ve used Find My hundreds of times and never once was it to find something that was stolen.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 57
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,385member
    rynoyes said:
    Hum.....so if someone stole like a bicycle with an AirTag and they had an iPhone, would they “receive a notification that an unknown AirTag has been following them”?
    Yeah and they would find the air tag and chunk it in the trash.  So it’s useless.  Just use a tile.
    It’s not useless. AirTags are not anti-theft devices. Until you realize this you won’t see the usefulness. 

    As someone who loses things (I leave stuff places), I see value in them. 
    bageljoeypscooter63beowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
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