Apple will be issuing an update to its popular AirTags – the device that’s used to keep track of our personal belongings – to eliminate unwanted tracking of people or other people’s property.
Apple says it condemns any malicious use of its products and it recognises that unwanted tracking has long been a problem well before it launched AirTags.
In fact, Apple built the first ever pro-active system to alert people of unwanted tracking as part of its Find My network.
At present, individuals will receive alerts if there is an AirTag that doesn’t belong to them is nearby and tracking them.
At the moment, for example, if you borrowed someone’s keys with an air tag attached, you would receive these same tracking alerts.
Apple says it has been working with law enforcement on AirTag related issues and says incidents of misuse are rare – but every instance is still a concern.
Every AirTag has a unique serial number and paired AirTags are associated with an Apple ID.
In the event of a subpoena or valid requests from law enforcement, Apple can provide the paired account details.
This would then reveal, in the event of unwanted tracking, who the AirTag belongs to.
Apple says it has successfully partnered with law enforcement on cases where the information the company it provided was used to trace an AirTag back to the offender who was then apprehended and charged.
Apple says it will be making additional changes to AirTag and the Find My network to increase privacy and prevent unwanted tracking.
In an upcoming update, users setting up their AirTag for the first time will see a clear message stating the device is meant to track their own belongings and that tracking people without their consent is a crime in many parts of the world.
And when it is detected by the victims, law enforcement can request identifying information about the owner of the AirTag.
Apple will also refine the unwanted tracking alert logic so the unwanted tracking alert will be triggered earlier.
Apple’s AirTag updates to prevent unwanted tracking have been applauded by the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the National Center for Victims of Crime in the US.
“The alerts system Apple has notifying potential victims of any unwanted tracking has helped shine a light on a problem that existed long before AirTags came on the market,” says Erica Olsen, director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
“We are happy Apple is engaging in the conversation about victim safety and are continuing to improve safeguards. We hope others will follow their lead.
Renee Williams, Executive Director, National Center for Victims of Crime said: “What these unwanted tracking alerts are showing us is that Apple’s system is working and, at the same time, raising awareness of this issue.”