The Apple AirTag remains one of the best key finders you can get, but at launch it lacked safety features to prevent potential stalking. While Apple has addressed these criticisms with later updates, none have been as apparently powerful as its latest one.
Changes to the Find My app in the iOS 15.2 beta (found by MacRumors) now let you scan for AirTags that you don't own in your immediate area. What's more, if you're worried about what the tag is being used for, you are able to disable its tracking from your iPhone, even if you don't own the AirTag.
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As the screenshots show, the Items tab now has an option for "Items That Can Track Me." Selecting this, then the "Unknown Items" prompt makes your iPhone scan for nearby AirTags and other Find My-compatible items that you don't own, and then notifies you of them. You then have the option to turn off tracking on any devices you think shouldn't be doing so.
Equally, if you don't believe the item to be suspicious, then you can still locate the lost tracker and try to return it to its owner, like in Apple's original AirTag pitch.
This is a welcome change that helps answer continued worries about these trackers being easily used for abusive purposes. However, this doesn't seem to be an automatic process, unlike the loss chime that AirTags emit after being separated from their owner for between 8 and 24 hours, or the notification you get when you're near an AirTag you don't own. Plus, being able to remotely switch off other people's tracking capabilities seems like it could also be used for mischievous or abusive ends.
As this feature is only in the beta version of the next iOS 15 update, you won't be able to use it for a little while yet, and possibly not at all if Apple decides to remove it from the final version. It's worth noting too that we don't recommend installing the beta version of any operating system on your main device, as these betas can contain bugs that could put your phone and data at risk.
Apple had also promised an unexpected Android version of its Find My app, which would allow users of rival phones to detect AirTags and help contribute to the Find My network of devices. But since being announced, no further information on this app has been given.