Apple Rolls Out New Updates to Stop AirTag Stalking

A hand placing an Apple AirTag into the fold of a wallet.

Stalking with AirTags has been a steady drawback for the reason that product’s launch. The corporate has produced a number of updates it claims improve consumer security, however up to now nothing has really mitigated the dangers.
Photograph: Steve Heap (Shutterstock)

Though it’s been greater than a 12 months and a half since Apple put its little monitoring doohickey known as AirTags available on the market, the product has been repeatedly abused by stalkers as a approach of retaining tabs on targets. This week, Apple silently launched particulars on earlier firmware updates to its AirTags that lets customers inform if an unknown AirTag is in your particular person.

On Wednesday, Apple’s Assist web page added particulars about its newest two firmware updates, particularly 2.0.24 and a pair of.0.36. Whereas the latter replace says it fastened the AirTags accelerometer not working in “sure eventualities,” the previous replace may be very attention-grabbing. The replace “permits Precision Discovering to assist find an unknown AirTag detected shifting with you.” As well as, a consumer’s iPhone will notify customers when an AirTag that’s not with its proprietor is in your particular person. The iPhone may also emit a sound to make it clear it’s been moved.

Any paired AirTag ought to routinely obtain the replace when it’s inside 33-feet of Bluetooth vary with the iPhone, although the function solely works on iPhone 11, 12, 13, and 14 fashions. The iPhone additionally must be operating iOs 16.2 or later. These updates add to an earlier firmware replace that included “tuning the undesirable monitoring sound to extra simply find an unknown AirTag.”

The firmware updates had been launched each final month and this month, in accordance with MacRumors, but it surely took the corporate till now to explain what the updates truly did. The function works utilizing extremely wideband, which implies AirTags in international locations like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Indonesia, and extra are nonetheless greater than able to retaining tabs on unsuspecting individuals. And naturally, the function does nothing for any Android consumer who might need an AirTag on them. For that, Apple has needed to launch a separate app.

The first replace from final summer time made AirTags beep in the event that they weren’t close to the unique customers’ cellphone after eight to 24 hours, however clearly this had blended outcomes. Again in February, Apple made a assertion about how they had been working to forestall AirTags for “undesirable monitoring” The corporate already touted its “first-ever proactive system to warn you of undesirable monitoring,” however customers had been complaining about receiving alerts once they borrowed mates’ keys. The tech big promised extra updates to permit customers to find out the place an undesirable AirTag is on their particular person.

Ever since they had been launched as a competitor to the Tile monitoring system, critics have questioned simply how ripe AirTags had been for abuse. A Washington Publish article from Might 2021 first introduced up the query of AirTag stalking, but it surely’s gotten a lot worse since then. Motherboard reported in April that they uncovered 50 instances from the eight months prior the place ladies reported being tracked with AirTags. Indianapolis police mentioned again in June {that a} girl allegedly used AirTags to stalk her boyfriend and later homicide him.

Apple has launched updates over time to scan for AirTags, however none of these new options have really depleted the danger of technologically-enabled stalking. A brand new class motion lawsuit filed by two ladies and stalking victims earlier this month claims the corporate has been “heedless” in proliferating its AirTags. One of many ladies in that swimsuit claimed her iPhone alerted her to the AirTag in her neighborhood.

What all this reveals is how such a comparatively innocuous piece of expertise can have large unintended penalties, however Apple’s response to the privateness nightmare it’s created has been sluggish and piecemeal. Whereas the corporate touts that it’s going to hand over any info to regulation enforcement relating to monitoring, Apple’s technique places the onus on common individuals to pay attention to the expertise and actively scan for it on their particular person.

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