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Apple AirTags, Bluetooth-operated tracking devices intended to help users find belongings like keys and wallets, have had unintended consequences after countless stories revealed that they were in some cases being used for stalking purposes and harassment.
The accounts are widespread on social media platforms like TikTok, with victims recounting a similar sequence of events: a phone notification that you’re being tracked with an AirTag, followed by panic and confusion, an examination of one’s belongings or underneath one’s car to discover the unwanted device and a final warning to share with friends and loved ones. The technology is about a quarter in size, which makes it difficult to unearth in some cases, increasing risks of harm when used for stalking or harassment purposes.
Following the unsettling stories of people being stalked, or in some cases individuals testing it themselves and reporting on just how easily the device could be used for mal-intent, Apple announced in February that it would be upgrading the technology to make it safer and discourage would-be perpetrators from using the device.
Among one of the first moves by Apple was adding a warning when first setting up the device, cautioning users that employing the technology for stalking purposes has legal ramifications. “Using this item to track people without their consent is a crime in many regions around the world,” the warning reads. “This item is designed to be detected by victims and to enable law enforcement to request identifying information about the owner.”
The latest update is a less polite initiative to deter possible stalkers from causing harm: making AirTags “as loud as possible.” By making the noise emitted by AirTags louder, victims will be able to more easily find the device in the cases where a predator has hidden it particularly well. Apple also plans to upgrade the tracking alerts to notify people earlier in the event they are being followed.
Apple users receive the notification directly on their phone if they are being tracked by an AirTag. But without an iPhone, users would have to download the Apple Tracker Detect app and perform a manual scan if they suspected something was off. And what if you don’t have a smartphone at all? The technology is just a year old, so it might be a long way to go before Apple fine-tunes the product to ensure it is safe for all users. In the meantime, be vigilant about suspect behavior.
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