Apple reveals that AirTag will inform you if you are being 'stalked'

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,918   +763
Staff member
In brief: It seems that Apple's AirTags are more versatile than the company first let on. Not only can you track your stuff with them, they cannot be used by others who might find or steal them, can notify a finder of who the tag belongs to, and get this, they can also notify you if you are being "stalked."

Apple finally revealed that it is launching its AirTag tracking fobs on April 30. The device utilizes the company's expanded and improved Find My network to locate attached items with nearly pinpoint precision. However, the trackers have more versatility than Apple initially announced.

In an interview with Fast Company, Apple's Vice President of Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing Kaiann Drance and Senior Director of Sensing and Connectivity Ron Huang explained features of AirTags that make them more secure and prevent unwanted spying. They also revealed that the fobs are compatible with non-Apple devices, like Android phones.

"When it came to designing our own product, we thought carefully about how to get this right in a way that no one else in the industry's ever done before," said Drance. "You'll see that we designed for the privacy of AirTag owners and nonowners, as well as making these benefits opened up to third-party products as well."

One key feature of AirTag is called "Pairing Lock." What this does is make it so that nobody else can use your tracker. If someone finds or steals it, it will be useless to them. The feature is more or less a spinoff of iPhone's Activation Lock.

"If you lose your AirTag, somebody can't just pick up your AirTag, repair it with their iPhone, and continue using it," said Huang. "This has been really impactful for the iPhone and we think it will be for AirTag as well."

When used with other Apple devices, a convenient feature of the Find My app is "Lost Mode," which allows the finder to contact the owner. For instance, when users mark their iPhone as lost, the lock screen displays a message that says, "Lost iPhone—This iPhone has been lost. Please call me." The user can customize the message with contact information.

AirTags cannot be identified in this manner since they have no screen. However, if the owner sets the AirTag to "lost" in the Find My app, the device can still inform the finder how to contact the owner.

"Every AirTag has a unique serial number printed on it, but the identity of the owner cannot be derived from that number unless that owner activates the AirTag’s Lost Mode. Once you’ve toggled that option on, someone who finds your lost AirTag can then scan it with any NFC-equipped device (such as an iPhone or Android phone) to display a web URL prompt on that device. Tapping on the prompt will take the finder of your AirTag to an Apple support page featuring the AirTag’s unique serial number and—if the AirTag owner so chooses—the phone number of the AirTag’s owner so the finder can call or text."

Another intriguing feature that Apple did not touch on in its keynote is its "stalker-proofing." It is conceivable that someone could use an AirTag to track an unsuspecting person's location by slipping on into the pocket of a backpack or other item. However, since any iPhone can detect any nearby AirTag, it will push a notification to the user that says, "AirTag Found Moving With You" if it notices the device stays within proximity.

For Android users or those without an iPhone to let them know they are being followed, AirTags are programmed to "automatically emit a sound notifying those around it of its presence." Currently, this occurs after the fob has been out of range of the owner for three days, but the executives said that Apple could tweak the timing in future updates if necessary.

Image credit: Jack Skeens

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Dimitriid

Posts: 390   +675
Well it's nice they prioritize "no stalking" but if anyone finds, or worst, steals anything tagged they can just tell their own iPhone they don't want to be "stalked" by their victims trying to locate their stuff.

So even if the tag is somewhat covertly placed, this feature seems to pretty much negate most use out of it beyond "I've lost my keys in my house" type uses.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,918   +763
Staff member
Well it's nice they prioritize "no stalking" but if anyone finds, or worst, steals anything tagged they can just tell their own iPhone they don't want to be "stalked" by their victims trying to locate their stuff.

So even if the tag is somewhat covertly placed, this feature seems to pretty much negate most use out of it beyond "I've lost my keys in my house" type uses.
I don't think it works that way. Perhaps I misunderstand what you are saying. But aside from a thief throwing the tag in the trash, there is no way to turn them off.
 

ikesmasher

Posts: 3,100   +1,492
I don't think it works that way. Perhaps I misunderstand what you are saying. But aside from a thief throwing the tag in the trash, there is no way to turn them off.
right, but the AirTags will notify a thief carrying an iphone or similar device they they are being stalked, alerting said thief to the presence of an airtag he will throw in the trash.
 

ikesmasher

Posts: 3,100   +1,492
Yet another pointless IDGAF apple accessory. Who actually buys this damn junk?
The apple executive leadership team has acknowledged your complaint and will respond when they are done filling the campus swimming pools with gold ingots.
Seriously, at what point will you people acknowledge that maybe if THIS MANY people are buying their products, there's possibly a good reason for it?
 
So help me understand this; I am sitting on the subway or bus and now my phone is going to tell me about every tag on the bus that is stalking me because it can't tell that I am on transit with dozens of others? This feature doesn't seem logical as one could be in the local of tags for extended periods - it doesn't mean stalking. It could theoretically pick up tags of your neighbours, coworkers, transit passengers - how would you ever be able to tell the difference? Kind of a non-feature if you ask me.
 

CommonSenseTech

Posts: 57   +57
So help me understand this; I am sitting on the subway or bus and now my phone is going to tell me about every tag on the bus that is stalking me because it can't tell that I am on transit with dozens of others?

Unlikely. It will probably wait a longer time (perhaps 5+ hours of proximity to a particular AirTag) before alerting you.

So if I stick one in a pocket of your backpack or in the trunk of your car, you probably won’t know until about five hours of continuous “tag is moving with you” signal.

I doubt the average person will be on a transit bus or subway with a proximate tag, though you may occasionally see the alerts on long-distance trains or buses.
 

ikesmasher

Posts: 3,100   +1,492
So help me understand this; I am sitting on the subway or bus and now my phone is going to tell me about every tag on the bus that is stalking me because it can't tell that I am on transit with dozens of others? This feature doesn't seem logical as one could be in the local of tags for extended periods - it doesn't mean stalking. It could theoretically pick up tags of your neighbours, coworkers, transit passengers - how would you ever be able to tell the difference? Kind of a non-feature if you ask me.
if (other_iphone == nearby) && (owner_iphone != nearby) stalkernotify();

If people leave their keys on the subway accidentally then go home, then you might be notified.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,918   +763
Staff member
So help me understand this; I am sitting on the subway or bus and now my phone is going to tell me about every tag on the bus that is stalking me because it can't tell that I am on transit with dozens of others?
Unlikely. It will probably wait a longer time (perhaps 5+ hours of proximity to a particular AirTag) before alerting you.

So if I stick one in a pocket of your backpack or in the trunk of your car, you probably won’t know until about five hours of continuous “tag is moving with you” signal.

I doubt the average person will be on a transit bus or subway with a proximate tag, though you may occasionally see the alerts on long-distance trains or buses.
Plus we need to insert a modicum of common sense here. Afterall. how many notifications on your phone do you get a day that you completely ignore? Emails, a bank transaction you have made, the latest headline--we get notifications all the time depending on our settings. We only pay attention to them when they are relevant.

If the email notification is spam I ignore it, but if it's one I was expecting I open my email. If the bank notification comes right after I made a payment somewhere, I don't even look at it when it pings, but if it's out of the blue I check it out and take action if necessary. So, if I'm on the train and Find My tells me there is an AirTag moving with me, I'm going to say, "Ya think?" and ignore it. But if I'm walking down the street where no one is around, I'm going to check my backpack to see if I have an unwanted passenger.

Plus, remember, Apple's Find My network is way more precise than it ever was before. They might have them programmed in such a way that the tag has to be in very close proximity, or in a consistent orientation to you. For example, it's moving with you for five minutes at a distance of 5 feet to your six. It's too early to tell exactly how they implemented it. We'll have to see after they have been out for a couple of weeks.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 16,520   +5,320
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't Apple have to be stalking you to be able to tell if you're being stalked?