AirTags are a growing headache for Apple amid disturbing monitoring reports

Sam, a Brooklyn woman, was walking home from the bar she helps manage a few weeks ago when she received a notification on her phone: “Your current location can be seen by the owner of this AirTag.”

He had never heard of AirTags, the button-sized tracking devices that Apple launched last April. The company markets them as a way to easily keep track of essential personal belongings, like keys and wallets, and sells them for an affordable $ 29 each or $ 99 for a pack of four.

It was one in the morning. Notifications on Sam’s phone said that an AirTag device was first seen tracking her at 5:51 am the day before, and a second was first detected later that afternoon. More alarmingly, the notifications included a map with a red line showing exactly where Sam had just walked – from the bar to her apartment building.

A friend she called for advice helped her figure out what to look for: a round silver-white sliver just over an inch wide.

“I go through all my stuff, my bag and everything, my gym bag, my jacket,” recalled Sam, who asked HuffPost not to use his full name to protect his privacy.

But he didn’t see anything unusual. On the advice of her friend, she changed the clothes she was wearing and walked back out of her apartment building, only to see that the red line had traced her movements. Both she and her friend have carefully examined her phone case, but have yet to find anything. Sam walked the streets around her apartment building and watched the red line follow her.

across the country women denounce similar incidents to police and local media in an effort to raise public awareness that Apple’s AirTags can be hidden on cars and in personal belongings to track people without their knowledge. Stories proliferate on TikTok and some have been posted on Reddit Other Twitter.

Sometimes people find the devices, sometimes they don’t.

New York-based model Brooks Nader shared her experience on Instagram earlier this year. she said she had been in a crowded bar with her coat hanging from a chair and on her way back to her apartment when she received a notification about an unknown AirTag device following her.

“I just want people to be aware that this exists,” he said on Instagram.

A woman from Los Angeles, Ashley Estrada, posted a viral TikTok explaining how he found a device wedged between his license plate and the body of his car. A woman from Oregon told a similar story.

In Philadelphia, Courtney Chandler he told local news station 6 ABC who woke up last month to the same iPhone notification on an unknown AirTag, even though it appeared to have fallen off at some point in the night before it reached her home.

“The scary thing is that I have no idea who did this to me. I don’t know their intentions, ”Chandler told the outlet.

Tracking devices are not new. Tile also manufactures pocket trackers for keys and wallets, marketing itself as “the largest Lost and Found in the world”.

Apple’s network, however, is particularly powerful. AirTags are able to use the Find My network, which uses Bluetooth technology, and other people’s iPhones, MacBooks and iPads – hundreds of millions of devices, according to Apple – to send position signals to the person who owns it. The process is so efficient that it barely touches a device’s battery charge. And since the world is already covered in Apple products, the location data is generally very accurate.

A LandAirSea tracking device is based on satellite GPS tracking with a paid monthly subscription. Tile also uses Bluetooth, like AirTags. But a New York Times technical reporter who tried those three different products to track down her husband found that the Apple device produced the most specific results, particularly in a metropolitan environment. (Yes, she had his permission.)

Apple has been moved to address AirTag concerns multiple times in the past year; shortly after their release, The Washington Post posted a story titled “Apple’s AirTags Made It Terrifyingly Easy to” Haunt Me “in a Test”. This week, the company announced more new security features while defending the pursuers.

“Since the launch of AirTag last April, users have written to share countless stories where AirTag has been instrumental in bringing them together with the things they love,” the tech giant She said Thursday, giving examples that included a child reuniting with a critical drug lost on a bus.

Not all social media posts are negative, not even a TikTok video showed the device plugged into the shorts of a smiling woman with the caption: “When your friends buy an AirTag to keep track of at parties because you’re always on the run.”

But Apple has acknowledged that some people are also using AirTags the wrong way.

“We take customer security very seriously and are committed to the privacy and security of AirTag,” Apple said in a statement to HuffPost highlighting the security features the company called “industry first.” . The features “both inform users if an unknown AirTag might be with them and discourage attackers from using an AirTag for nefarious purposes,” he said.

An iPhone with iOS 14.5 or later will send a notification if it detects an AirTag traveling with someone who does not have it. The notification will appear at the end of the day or when the iPhone detects that you have arrived home, which probably explains why Sam received a notification when she did. Those with Android phones can download an app, introduced in Decemberwhich allows them to learn about any mysterious AirTags following them.

AirTags will also make noise when separated from their owners, which occurs at a random time between eight and 24 hours after separation. The company says randomization helps determine bad actors. You can use your phone to force the AirTag to chirp so you can find it faster.

The company instructs those who find an unwanted AirTag to disable it using their phone or taking it apart; detailed instructions can be found on its website.

A screenshot from Sam’s phone.

But as anyone who has used Bluetooth speakers can attest, the technology can be unpredictable. Sam tried to follow her instructions on her phone to force the two AirTags following her to make noise, but they were unable to connect to play the sound.

She became suspicious of a man in her apartment building that she had noticed watching her and following her down the street. Sam threw his phone case – the kind that doubles as a wallet – into a garbage can outside a bodega, and grabbed a few things to spend the night with her friend.

Her phone later showed that AirTags had stopped following her around 4am, ending a three-hour ordeal. She suspects the phone case but she has no way of knowing for sure.

“If users believe their security is at risk, they are encouraged to contact local law enforcement who may work with Apple to provide all available information about the unknown AirTag,” Apple said in its statement to HuffPost.

Each AirTag has a serial number which can be linked back to the owner. But not much can be done for people who cannot find an AirTag on them.

A Mississippi woman, Amber Norsworthy, said she received a notification while she was in a park with her three children, but they checked all of their belongings and found nothing.

“I think they should stop selling them for a period of time until they can set some safe limits with it,” Norsworthy he told the BBC last month.

The company says it regularly works with law enforcement to track down devices, leading in some cases to allegations and in others revealing a miscommunication, such as when a family member borrows a car.

In Brooklyn, Sam went to the NYPD station.

“They were just very dismissive,” he said. The officers you spoke to refused to write anything. “They used to tell me, ‘There’s nothing to report. Nothing happened. We can’t just write a report. This isn’t like TV shows. ‘”

Women who spoke to the New York Times about the matter reported equally lackluster experiences dealing with the police.

Sam ended up changing the locks on her apartment and installing a small security camera outside her door for peace of mind.The man she noticed while watching her, a sub-letter, then moved on.

Apple announced Updates were planned for the end of the year on Thursday to help find AirTags more easily.

One of these updates, “precision search”, would allow you to use the phone to see how far away the AirTag is, while another would alert users before an AirTag was following them. Apple also confirmed that its AirPods were found to request notifications with a slightly different wording, “unknown accessory detected” and said a future update will specify that the device is a harmless pair of headphones.

Apple says it intends to show a message to people setting up an AirTag that forces them to acknowledge that the devices only serve to track personal belongings and using them to track people without their permission is often a crime.

What people do with this information, however, is not in the hands of the company.