New York Attorney General Issues AirTag Consumer Alert Over Stalking Concerns

Though Apple last week announced changes to AirTags that will likely help cut down on unwanted tracking, officials are starting to take notice of complaints. New York Attorney General Letitia James today sent out a consumer alert with “safety recommendations” to protect New Yorkers from ‌AirTags‌ (via The Mac Observer).

airtag in hand

Across the country, Apple AirTags are being misused to track people and their belongings to cause harm. Tracking people without their awareness or consent is a serious felony and will not be tolerated by my office. I urge all New Yorkers to pay close attention to their belongings and follow the tips provided by my office to stay safe. New Yorkers’ safety is my top priority and my office will continue to do everything in its power to protect New Yorkers.

James’ alert echoes many of Apple’s own recommendations, suggesting that people listen for unfamiliar beeping, watch for “Item Detected Near You” notifications on iPhones, use Apple’s Tracker Detect app on Android phones to manually scan for ‌AirTags‌, and keep Apple devices up to date.

The alert includes a small paragraph noting that not all unfamiliar ‌AirTags‌ are malicious because they are actually sometimes lost by users when a device goes missing. New Yorkers who find a misused AirTag tucked inside their belongings are urged to contact the Office of the Attorney General immediately by filing a complaint with the OAG Internet and Technology Bureau.

Using GPS and Bluetooth-based tracking devices for stalking purposes is not new, but Apple’s item trackers have received quite a bit of attention because of the built-in warning system. With most trackers, people might not even know they’re being stalked, but ‌AirTags‌ are designed to provide alerts.

AirTag critics have also taken issue with how easy it is to use and obtain ‌AirTags‌, and with the vast Find My network that allows an AirTag to be tracked down almost anywhere. Apple has been combatting unwanted AirTag stalking with a number of different measures.

Last June, Apple narrowed the window in which ‌AirTags‌ begin playing a sound after being separated from their owners. Originally, ‌AirTags‌ began sending out sounds after three days, but that timeline is now eight to 24 hours.

In December, Apple released the “Tracker Detect” app that allows Android users to scan for AirTags to make sure there are none around, and then amid continued reports of stalking and misuse of ‌AirTags‌, Apple last week announced several new measures.

Going forward, when users set up an AirTag, there will be a warning that the AirTag is linked to an Apple ID and that using an AirTag to track people is a crime. Apple will also make it clear that it will cooperate with law enforcement to find people who are using ‌AirTags‌ maliciously.

Later this year, Apple will allow iPhone 11 and later models to use Precision Finding to track down nearby ‌AirTags‌, and sounds will be accompanied by alerts for those who might not hear a nearby AirTag. Apple is also working to make ‌AirTags‌ louder and the alert system will be updated to notify users even earlier about ‌AirTags‌ that might be traveling with them.

Apple has pledged to continue to work on AirTag security, and the company says that it is listening to user feedback and innovating to make additional improvements to ‌AirTags‌.

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